Futility By Owen

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FUTILITY by Wilfred Owen Wilfred Owen's poem is a memorial to an Unknown Soldier; a poetic equivalent, in its way, to the famous Tomb in Westminster Abbey. We have no idea who the dead man is; we do not know whether he was even known to the poet, except in his death. Like the Unknown Soldier he is nameless, but with an anonymity at the opposite pole to abstraction. Our most personal experiences of love and loss respond for him. He is every young man dead and squandered in war. The economy of the poem is remarkable. It is short enough to be inscribed on a tomb, and has something of the same finality. The vocabulary is simple and homely. Nearly all the words are monosyllabic: they move with an even tread, until the second stanza, lines three to four, when this evenness is deliberately broken, to point the mounting emotional intensity. Notice the very characteristic use of assonance-sun/sown; once/France; snow/now/know; seeds/sides; star/stir; tall/toil/all. These half- rhymes leave a sense of incompleteness on the ear. Cheated of our natural expectation of a rhyme, we are referred back from the poem itself as a formal triumph (which it is) to the poem's theme: to the frustration of form, of pattern, in the ruthless destructiveness of war. The poem's tone is governed by the imperatives and questions through which it progresses. All of these are tinged with irony, of the kind peculiar to imperatives when there is nothing useful to be done, and to questions when there is nothing hopeful to be known. The words introducing these imperatives and questions are 'Move' (line I), 'If' (line 6), 'Think' (line 8), 'Are' (line 10), 'Was it' (line 12) and '0 what' (line 13). The word 'move' is not a literal imperative, since Owen is not addressing anyone on the spot. The dead man is not really to be moved into the sun, and we know that it could no longer reach him
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