Exposure is a poem written by the one of the most famous poets of the World War 1, Wilfred Owen. The poem illustrates the conditions that the soldiers were exposed to while living in the trenches of the war zone. The poem is divided into two parts, with the first one being an introduction to the weather acting as more of the enemy to the British than the Germans were and comparing the war with the Germans less deadly than the war with the environmental conditions. In this essay, I will analyse how Owen uses imagery to evoke both past and present feelings in this poem.
The first line of part tow of Exposure is, “Pale flakes with lingering stealth come feeling for our faces”. The personification of the flakes create tactile imagery that is felt by the reader as he describes how the snow sends the soldiers to a form of trance about their homes and the past, before the war. The phrase, “So we drowse, sun-dozed, littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses,” evokes the image of the soldiers lying in a garden perhaps at their home showing that the soldiers are indeed in a trance remembering about their lives before the war.
These diction used to describe their state such as “snow-dazed” and “sun-dozed” all add to the idea of them drifting back into time and are also associated with bright light that is normally linked with death. The stanza ends with Owen asking the rhetorical question, “Is it that we are dying? ” showing that it is as though their lives are flashing before their lives, which is correlated with their forthcoming deaths. The next stanza is an extension of the previous one as Owen continues to explore further on their past memories of home, which give off a warm tone to the reader.
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The phrase, “glimpsing the sunk fires glozed with crusted-red jewels,” has a lot of visual imagery reminding the reader of the sun, which is always related with positive feelings. The poet blends the words glow and glazed to create a new word, “glozed,” which strengthens the warmness of the imagery used to describe their memories. But as they are in the trance of remembering the past, they are brought back to reality by use of the phrases, “Shutters and doors all closed: on us the doors are closed”, and, “We turn back to our dying. The repetition of the closed doors shows the emphasis of their hopelessness and how they can’t go back to the past; they are forced to face the present, which is their death. The last stanza of the poem demonstrates the end of their dying. The phrase, “To-night, His frost will fasten on this mud and us, Shrivelling many hands and puckering foreheads crisp” shows the extent of what the exposure to the weather does to the soldiers. The first letter of the word, “His” is capitalized and this punctuation suggest that it is God’s frost that kills the soldiers.
There is onomatopoeia in the word shrivelling, creating the image of the soldiers being reduced to nothing because of the frost. The last phrases explore the aftermath of this exposure to the weather, as the remaining soldiers bury the dead ones. There is some sibilance in the phrase; “picks and shovels in their shaking grasp,” which creates audio imagery that suggests the remaining soldiers are shivering from the cold. The effects of the exposure make the soldiers only half recognisable, supporting the severity of this weather.
The phrase, “All their eyes are ice, But nothing happens” is the last of the poem showing the reader all that is left of the soldiers is a blank cold stare compared to with ice. The “but nothing happens” phrase is repeated several times in the poem proving that even after their death, everything remains the same, the war is still their. This gives the reader the idea of the soldiers dying in vain. In conclusion, part two of Exposure allows the reader to explore the feelings of the soldiers as they are going through this slow death.
The effects of the weather cause the soldiers to go into a trance, remembering the past and all the warm memories that come with it. But the soldiers are then bounced back to their death where they face the intense conditions of the weather that is more deadly than the bullets of the war with the Germans. The poem concludes with the death of several soldiers caused by the exposure to the environment and how the remaining soldiers attempt to bury half recognisable men who died in vain.
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