Futility opens gently but dramatically with a command from a soldier “Move him into the sun”.
This is an act of desperation as the soldier does not want to accept the fate of this soldier. His reason for moving him is that the suns touch “awoke him once”. Owen then contrasts the sun’s rejuvenating power with the wintry world of death: “Until this morning and this snow”. This metaphor is used strongly in this poem including the second stanza, suggesting the sun is a God-like and life-filled figure and the winter of France is filled with death. Owen ends the stanza with a mock-like personified sentence that he would still, nonetheless like to believe: “If anything might rouse him now, the kind old sun will know.”In the second stanza, Owen moves away from the soldiers’ body to question to bigger picture of life itself.
He opens by praising the sun and re-stating that it achieved the creation of the earth: “Think how it wakes the seeds – Woke, once the clays of a cold star”. The soldier cannot grasp the fact that if it can do this, why it can’t breathe life back into a single man. Owen continues to question why this beautiful creature that has been created with “limbs, so dear-achieved” and “sides full-nerved” cannot be “stirred” and re-awoken.The second part of stanza two is where the tone of Owen becomes aggravated.
The use of a rhetorical question “Was it for this the clay grew tall?” keeps the reader thinking and helps imagine and understand just how War changes people, to question existence. Owen is asking did we become such a beautiful being to be brutally murdered and wiped off the earth. His tone continues when he again uses another rhetorical question, that is the ultimate question of all: The meaning of life. Owen presents the reader with “- O what made fatuous sunbeams toil to break earth’s sleep at all?” This was a deliberate technique used by Owen. Although this question was fuelled with, at the time, grief, confusion, anger and sadness, it is still a question that remains un-answered today. It leaves the reader thinking and consumed in his world of poetry.As Futility questioned the meaning of life, Owen’s poem The Last Laugh can somewhat backup his on-going question as this poem describes 3 soldiers who all exclaim three different comments and yet all meeting the same fate: Death. As mentioned, the three soldiers all have their own stanza.
The first opens with “‘O Jesus Christ! I’m hit,’ he said; and died.” The second line addresses whether he meant it religiously or if it was blasphemes, either way it doesn’t matter, we find out in the first line that he died. The rest of the stanza continues in suggesting the many ways he could have died. “The bullets chirped – in vain! Vain! Vain!” In this sentence alone, Owen has used to techniques.The first is personification; the whole poem, including the title revolves around personification. The title, The Last Laugh, is in fact talking about the machinery and weaponry of war, suggesting at the end of the day, in the battle of man versus machine, machine will always win. In this context, Owen says that the bullets “chirped”.
The second he uses is repetition. This helps to emphasize the non-stop firing of the guns, and this is again emphasized in the next line where it’s said: “Machine-guns chuckled – tut-tut! Tut-tut!”.The second stanza, like the first contains personification. This time, after the soldier helplessly cries to his mother and father, he “Then smiled, at nothing, childlike, being dead”. After the shrapnel cloud has done its designed job of killing the young soldier, it then “Leisurely gestures” the soldier calling him a fool.
The reason for this is that even though thousands of men have died already before this man, men are still trying to defeat machine.The third man whose fate has been set, is crying to his significant other “Till, slowly lowered, his whole face kissed the mud.” – Just like he would of slowly and passionately kissed his partner, his relationship now is not with a human but the mud, or death. The personification in this verse seems to be toned the most vicious. “And the Bayonets’ long teeth grinned” is a statement that the reader can imagine, even though not physically possible, when personified it can really show the mercilessness of war.The poem is ended with “And the Gas hissed”, Owen’s deliberate ending show’s no guns or loud noise and yet there is still that horrific image of war.
Wilfred Owen’s poetry is engaging and can truly bring a reader into his world of poetry. All three of these poems, Dulce et Decorum Est, Futility and The Last Laugh all use techniques that achieve this and not just leaving the reader with an engaging simple story, but questions that relate to us as individuals and society