This is a personal favourite of mine- it is also a great one for comparison as it covers three big themes of our poetry collection: war, nature and identity.
- In this lesson you will:
- Learn more about the context of this poem and the poet.
- Read the poem and understand its place in the ‘power and conflict’ anthology.
- Complete your annotations and/or notes.
- Write a short response key quotes and points in the poem
You will need:
Task One: Read the following information about the poet. Summarise in your own words key information about the poet and context. Remember you must link this information to your analysis in the exam so it is important to make notes!
• Wilfred Owen (1893–1918) is widely regarded as one of Britain’s greatest war poets.
•Owen originally joined the British army as a patriot (someone who strongly supports their country). Whilst serving on the frontline, he was blown into the air by a shell (an explosive). Owen was diagnosed with ‘shell-shock’ and sent to a hospital near Edinburgh where he spent four months recovering.
•Here he met another famous war poet- Siegfried Sassoon- who encouraged Owen to publish his poems (sadly he never saw his success, and his poems were found and published after his death).
•Once he had recovered, he was sent back to the frontline. He was killed, aged 25, on the 4th of November- one week before Armistice (the end of war) was declared.
•Many of his poems were written to show the truth about war and the suffering of the men. He wanted people to understand exactly what soldiers had experienced; both the physical and mental trauma of war.
Overview of the poem: Wilfred Owen’s poem focuses on the misery felt by World War One soldiers waiting overnight in the trenches. Although nothing is happening and there is no fighting, there is still danger because they are exposed to the extreme cold and their wait through the night is terrifying. The eight stanzas are gripping because the speaker describes the trauma of living and struggling in such poor conditions. There is a sense of despair and of lost hope.
Task 2: Read the poem on your own. Try to write down your initial thoughts / reactions to the poem. Some questions you could use to guide your notes:
•What is the poem about?
•How is the scene described?
•How is the weather presented?
If you’d like to hear a reading of it, click the link below:
Once you have read / listened to the poem, consider this question: How does Owen present the experience of war?
Task Three: Watch this video to explore the poem fully. If you can’t print a copy out, don’t worry. You should just make some notes or a mind map on the key information. Or, you could download the copy of the poem and annotate it using Microsoft word. You can pause the video at any point to make your notes. Remember you will need these notes for revision before your final exams!
These are the main ideas about power and conflict I want you to consider:
- The poet is ‘exposing’ the truth of war. It is not easy or glorious, but traumatic and brutal.
- The poem explores the power of nature. Nature is arguably the true enemy in this poem.
- The power of fear. These soldiers are most fearful whilst they wait apprehensively for something to ‘happen’.
- The poem explores how conflict affects a person both physically and psychologically.
- The cyclical structure of the poem emphasises the repetitive nature and monotony of these soldiers’ lives on the front-line.
A challenging interpretation: In Stanza 7, the poet begins to doubt there is a God. What might Owen be suggesting about the experience of war?
Task Four: Analyse each key quote below. You could write each out and ‘explode’ it, or use the ‘What/ How/ Why’ method. Use the sentence starters on the ppt to help you.
- ‘Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us’. Consider specifically why Owen opens with this line. Think about the imagery describing the weather in particular.
- ‘We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy’.
- ‘Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces’
- ‘All their eyes are ice’
- ‘But nothing happens’. Consider specifically why this is line is repeated throughout the poem. What atmosphere does he leave us with and why? What is Owen suggesting about the experience of war?
Feel free to explode any other lines/ images that particularly interest you.
Sentence starters and key words are on the Powerpoint below to help you!
Stretch yourself: Answer the following, more challenging, questions below in full sentences.
- Consider the different interpretations of the title: ‘Exposure’. What is exposure? What else does it mean?
- What is the effect of the ellipsis (…) in stanzas one and two?
- What do you notice about the soldiers’ feelings for home?
- What do you notice about the religious references in the penultimate stanza?
- How could this poem, written in a first person perspective, be regarded as a microcosm?
Well done! Now remember to upload and submit your work on Show My Homework.