How is the idea of “exposure” (been dangerously exposed to the natural elements weather) represented in the poem. How is the weather presented as an enemy?
Firstly exposure to the freezing weather is represented as at the beginning of the poem through the the first line “iced east winds that knife us.” This idea shows that the weather or the wind is so freezing that it almost feels like a stabbing pain, people who may have been exposed to this weather will know what it feels like. The knife symbolises pain, and short sharp pains that almost sting giving the reader a feeling of short action pain that most people have experienced.
“iced east winds that knife us.”
“We hear the mad guts tugging on the wire, like twitching agonies of men among its brambles.”
“we only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.”
“Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow, with sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause, and renew, awe watch them wandering up and down the winds nonchalance.”
“pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces-”
“back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow dazed, deep in grassier ditches.”
“So we drowse, sun-dozed,”
“glimpsing the sunk fires, glazed with crusted dark red jewels.”
“kind fires burn; now ever suns smile true on child,”
“for gods invincible spring”
“Tonight, this frost will fasten on this mud and us,”
“shrivelling many hands, and puckering foreheads crisp.”
“picks and shovels in shaking grasp”
“all their eyes are ice”
Explain what these references specifically tell you about the environment and condition the men experience. How is the weather presented as an enemy?
“glimpsing the sunk fires, glazed with crusted dark red jewels,” presents that the mean were in such exposure to cold, they were jealous, and referring to fire embers as dark red jewels. Jewels are valuable hence indicating that these small embers were all they wanted and were hoping for, which was some sort of warmth. This exposure to cold could even have potentially effected their mind, causing to hallucinate into things they may be wanting, for example a classic when someone is stranded in a desert and is hallucinating, thinking they see water in front of them. Not many readers of this poem may have had this feeling except the opposite, and may try to think of the complete opposite, and think of the how your body would not function properly let alone having to try fight a war at the same time. The cold can be seen as an enemy as it shrivelled “many hands, and puckering foreheads crisp.” Wilfred Owen is giving the cold almost a personification blaming it on many of the soldiers having dysfunctional body parts. This shows potentially Wilfred Owen has experienced this too and when things are not going right, most humans look to blame it on something else, for example in this case the cold. Except this excuse was legitimate, hence potentially challenging human rights, and showing a feeling of anger towards the people who are making these soldiers go through this. Puckering is making your forehead contract, if the reader has experienced the feeling of cold, you know personally the feeling, almost lie brain freeze except worse, making your forehead cringeThe cold is seen as an enemy as it is physically abusing these soldiers, countless days on end, almost a reference between the enemy soldiers and the cold. Another example of how the war became and enemy as again they presented the environment they were in to be a living thing. Personification used in the line “pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces-” saying that these pale flakes are stealthy, is presenting that they had a sneakiness about it, maybe showing that these soldiers had little knowledge on how cold it was, being stealthy during the beginning but becoming a huge factor to their lives. This use of personification is meant to give us the reader a feeling of concerned, and almost a first person image of how sly this cold was.
“what are we doing here,” is a rhetorical question, this technique conveys that there is already and answer to the question. Wilfred Owen is saying there is no purpose of them being there. This rhetorical question challenges the reader, and makes the reader actually try think of a point why all these innocent and fatigued men are fighting a war. Wilfred Owen could be showing that the there is no point of these freezing men, who can beyond pull through to 100% effort be there.
“but nothing happens,” is a use of repetition, this technique affects the understanding of what what is taking place which is that he is emphasising the fact, that for countless days on end nothing happens, almost sending a message of that there is no point of them being there. Highlighting the fact and an image that this cold Is so terrible they would rather be at home working a hard lifestyle, this could potentially be surprising to the reader as generally most people in todays society would love to do “nothing” for countless days on end.
“misery of dawn,” is a use of personification, this technique brings up an image of a very dull, wet, and cold morning, giving the morning a human quality of someone being miserable, this allows the reader to think of a miserable person and give those qualities and compare it to the morning. Dawn occurs every day of every morning, therefore he may be implying that this occurs every morning.