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Attempt a critical appreciation of Wilfred Owen's poem 'Exposure'.

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robson-bj | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 1, 2009 at 7:04 PM via web

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Attempt a critical appreciation of Wilfred Owen's poem 'Exposure'.

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lit24 | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted January 1, 2009 at 10:18 PM (Answer #1)

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This first world war  poem provides a vivid description of the relentless cold and dreadful conditions during the worst winter of the war. Wilfred Owen puns on the word "exposure." The soldiers are not killed by enemy bullets but by "exposure" to the freezing cold: 

"To-night, His frost will fasten on this mud and us,
Shrivelling many hands and puckering foreheads crisp.
The burying-party, picks and shovels in their shaking grasp,
Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice,
But nothing happens."

The poem also "exposes" the lies of the government propaganda which promised the young men who enlisted to join the army a thrilling life of adventure and glory. In truth there is no adventure or glory: "nothing happens" in the trenches except that they wait to freeze to death in the biting cold.

Its a completely hopeless situation. The freezing soldiers can only dream of the comfort of their warm homes but they cannot ever hope to enter them: "on us the doors are closed --/We turn back to our dying." They are so miserable that they have lost all faith in a benevolent God who also created the season of spring and the sun which shines "true on child, or field, or fruit." So they cynically and stoically accept their unhappy fate and await their death.

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