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Exposure Poem Analysis

by Mike Requeno & Roneil Esteves, Period 5
by

Mike Requeno

on 13 October 2014

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Transcript of Exposure Poem Analysis

Historical Context
1 Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knife
us
...
a
2 Wearied we keep awake because the night is
silent
...
b
3 Low drooping flares confuse our memory of the
salient
...
b
4 Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious,
nervous
,
a
5 But nothing
happens
.
c
Rhyme and Meter
31 Since we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn;
32 Now ever suns smile true on child, or field, or fruit.
33 For God's invincible spring our love is made afraid;
34 Therefore, not loath, we lie out here; therefore were born,
35 For love of God seems dying.

36 To-night, His frost will fasten on this mud and us,
37 Shrivelling many hands and puckering foreheads crisp.
38 The burying-party, picks and shovels in their shaking grasp,
39 Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice,
40 But nothing happens.
Stanzas 7-8
"We hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire" (6) of "Exposure" can be related to “the shrill demented choirs of wailing shells” (7) in “Anthem for Doomed Youth." He uses sound to depict dissonance (a lack of harmony among musical notes) and the soldiers' loss of hope. This completely contrasts with the heroic war melodies prominent in Homer's "Iliad" as well as in Virgil's "Aeneid."
Connection to "Anthem for Doomed Youth "
Biographical/Historical Context
Literary Context
Connection to Other Work
Mike Requeno and Roneil Esteves, P5
"Exposure" by Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Owen (March 18, 1893 - November 4, 1918) was considered as one of the leading poets of World War I. His poems were greatly influenced by Siegfried Sassoon, an army officer during the war who wrote poetry stressing the horrors of war. Both poets wrote poetry that contrasted with the public's misconception of the war at the time.
One poet, William Butler Yeats, dismissed Owen's poetry by saying, "'Passive suffering is not a theme for poetry,'" although this particular poem deals with
passive suffering
altogether.
Biographical Context
The poem consists of forty line, eight stanzas (cinquains) with five lines each. The fifth line of every stanza is indented and short of syllables to emphasize its importance and to connect each stanza together.
Form/Stanza Structure
The tone throughout "Exposure" can be classified as detached, confused and cold. Several words/phrases that establish a confused tone are:
"our brains ache" (1)
"wearied we keep awake" (2)
"flares confuse our memory of the salient" (3)
An important note is the repetition of the line "But nothing happens" in lines 5, 15, 20, and 40. Since they are distributed throughout the poem, it reminds the reader that within the salient, they feel like there is no hope and that everything in their mind is unmoving, contrasting with the battle sounds, weather sounds and time changes.
The tone can be classified as pessimistic in stanza 6 and stanza 7.
Stanza 6: Even with thoughts of going home, the soldiers feel like it will never occur to them that the war will end.
"Shutters and doors all closed: on us the doors are closed -
We turn back to our dying" (29-30)
Stanza 7 also has a pessimistic tone, where the soldiers believe that God had forsaken them. The shortened line stresses this:
"For love of God seems dying" (35)

Tone
Owen utilizes harsh diction in order to convey the effects of the war on the soldiers. Frequently, we find examples of words that have a sleepy or exhausted connotation:
"
wearied
, we keep awake" (2)
"Far off, like a
dull rumour
of some other war" (9)
"clouds
sag
stormy" (12)
"We cringe... and
stare, snow-dazed
" (22)
"
Slowly
our ghosts
drag
home" (26)
Diction and Syntax
1 Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knife us...
2 Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent...
3 Low drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient...
4 Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous,
5 But nothing happens.

6 Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire.
7 Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles.
8 Northward incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles,
9 Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war.
10 What are we doing here?
Stanzas 1-2
11 The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow...
12 We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.
13 Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army
14 Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of gray,
15 But nothing happens.

16 Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.
17 Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow,
18 With sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause and renew,
19 We watch them wandering up and down the wind's nonchalance,
20 But nothing happens.
Stanzas 3-4
21 Pale flakes with lingering stealth come feeling for our faces -
22 We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed,
23 Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun-dozed,
24 Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses.
25 Is it that we are dying?

26 Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires glozed
27 With crusted dark-red jewels; crickets jingle there;
28 For hours the innocent mice rejoice: the house is theirs;
29 Shutters and doors all closed: on us the doors are closed -
30 We turn back to our dying.
Stanzas 5-6
The
setting
takes place in the trenches of the Western Front in 1917. Wilfred Owen is an officer in a regiment that holds a trench in a
salient
(a battlefield feature that projects into enemy territory). The salients were one of the most dangerous in the front line, since the enemy surrounded them on three sides. The
weather
throughout the course of being in the salient is
winter, dawn, snowing
. All of these help with the imagery throughout the poem.
The poem was also previously named "Nothing Happens" but he changed it to "Exposure." The change in title could be because he felt that the soldier's exposure to the precariousness and insanity of their position within the salients was the centerpiece of the poem.
The rhyme of the poem is
slant rhyme
, with "abbac" as the rhyme scheme for each stanza.
Meter in "Exposure" is randomized throughout. Scansion of the lines reveal that Stanza 1's syllables (from line 1 - 5) are 14, 13, 13, 14, then 5. The abrupt shortening of meter for each consecutive 5th line per stanza emphasis the importance of the line. In addition, each line alternates from
iambic
to
trochaic
. The unpredictable meter and rhyme scheme could reflect the snouts of rifles pointing at the soldiers through the darkness, the stumbling to find one's way in the cold night, and the feeling of anxiety being within the salient, awaiting an unexpected death. Owen purposefully extinguishes aesthetics in this poem to emphasize his disgust of the war.
It is important to note that the repetition ellipses found in the first 3 lines of the poem hints the reader that the movement of the poem will be slow and fatigue, which relates to the soldier's condition in the poem. In addition, there are several moments in which the narrator is listing off phrases as if he was dozing off:
"sentries whisper, curious, nervous" (4)
"war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag" (12)
"flowing flakes that flock, pause and renew" (18)
"suns smile true on child, or field, or fruit" (32)
Diction and Syntax (2)
The use of asyndeton and polysyndeton connects to the idea that the narrator is drifting off: it could be a literal meaning of drifting off to sleep, or figuratively droning off in a flashback.
The structure of "The Show" closely resembles "Exposure" because both poems are "round". The first stanza is parallel to the last, almost as if the story is on an endless loop. This connects to Owen's condition of PTSD because he keeps reliving the past and suffers from revisiting the harsh memories.
"We cringe in holes" (22)
Connection to "The Show"
In addition, it is important to note that the progression of the poem resembles a loop. The first stanza establish a cold, harsh setting. Stanza 3 indicates the transition from night to day, and the weather becomes gentler by stanza 6 and 7. The sharp turn towards the cold and harsh weather returns in stanza 8, making a complete circle.
Full transcript