1. What was Wilfred Owen’s attitude to the war? (WW1)

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Lesson Notes on Exposure: Remember you have original notes in your jotters
The answers to these questions will be used in writing a critical essay on the poem Exposure.

Context of Exposure

1. What was Wilfred Owen’s attitude to the war? (WW1)

He was critical of its ineffectiveness, its pointlessness.
2. How does Owen’s actual experience of war affect his poetry?

He writes about what war was actually like from his own experience rather than romanticise it as a heroic endeavour.
3. What is Exposure about?

It is about the impact of the weather on men in the trenches that it is more deadly than enemy fire.
4. Why does Owen write Exposure?

He wants illustrate the reality of war. To expose the myths about war propaganda and to raise awareness of the actual conditions soldiers were fighting under.
5. At home the public were largely unaware of the conditions soldiers were fighting in. Owen found that the public displayed a ‘callous complacency’ to the sacrifices soldiers made. What is your attitude to current war? What do you think of soldiers being killed in Afghanistan and Iraq? Are you essentially complacent?

Today President Barack Obama announced that 30000 more troops will be deployed in Afghanistan.

Speech at West Point: ‘So no – I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak. This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat. In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. This danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and al Qaeda can operate with impunity. We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region’
How many people died in the attack on the twin towers? 9/11? (3000)

Ambiguity in the title ‘Exposure’

The title ‘Exposure’ can be interpreted in many ways by the reader and is therefore its precise meaning is uncertain (or ambiguous or polysemic). Ambiguity is a common feature of poetry with the reader

Write down three interpretations of the title ‘Exposure’

  1. Exposure describes the weather conditions which men were subjected to in the trenches and died of.

  2. Exposure describes what Wilfred Owen was doing in this poem, namely exposing the actuality of war in the Trenches.

  3. A little less obvious but in exposing the reality of war, Owen ‘exposes’ himself to public criticism. The public had little knowledge or understanding of war in the trenches. How interested are you in the war in Afghanistan and Iraq? What is your response to this poem?

You have been provided with a copies of Futility and Disabled. Futility is about the pointlessness of war and Disabled about the experiences of a young war veteran.

Use of the first person plural and its effect.

In ‘Exposure’ Owen has the narrator repeatedly use the first person plural ‘we’ to create a specific effect.

What is the effect he creates?

War is shared experience. The experience is personal ‘we’ indicates that the narrator has had this experience.

Exploring the use of verbs in ‘Exposure’.
What verbs does Owen use to describe the actions of the soldiers? What are all of the verbs used in relation to ‘we’?

We keep awake

We hear

We only know

We watch

We cringe

We turn back

We drowse

We believe

We lie out here
What do soldiers normally do?

Fight, kill, march, armed combat, shoot, bayonet, fire, attack…..

What do the soldiers actually do?

The soldiers are largely inactive
What does this illustrate about the reality of war in the Trenches in WW1?

In trench warfare the soldiers are passive, not engaged in active fighting.

In contrast to the inaction of the soldiers what verbs are used to describe the weather?

Dawn massing

Pale flakes….come feeling

Air that shudders


East winds that knife us

Flock, pause and renew,

What does the weather do?

The weather attacks, masses, renews its onslaught on the soldiers. It is much more active than the soldiers who are under siege from the winter weather.
How effective is:

Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.

Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow,

In conveying the lethal nature of the weather?

JUXTAPOSE: ‘place close together’. In literary texts, characters, ideas, images are placed together for effect. Often these are polar opposites for a maximum contrast. One example is the juxtaposition of enemy fire with the weather:
Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.

Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow
Our normal expectation is that the bullets will kill soldiers but Owen immediately contradicts this with saying that they are less effective at killing than the weather.
What does Owen contrast in Exposure?

In addition to comparing the effects of the weather with enemy bullets,

he contrasts the reality of war with thoughts and dreams of home. How does he do this and what is the effect?
We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed, ……………………….

Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses.
In verse Owen juxtaposes the fear and bleakness of trench warfare ‘cringe in holes’ with the images of the British countryside which is described gently as ‘where the blackbird fusses’

Find another example and write your own explanation.

A further example is………………….

15.12.09 PARA RHYME

Owen was considered an innovative poet who invented Para rhyme-half rhyme.
Rhyme: full rhyme is usually expected in poetry as it is easier to remember and is usually fun. It links words and meaning

Big/wig, funny/runny, honey/money

Half rhyme is where the vowel is varied:

Examples in the poem are:

"Silent/Salient", "brambles/rumbles , "snow-dazed/sun-dozed" – The technique of half rhyme in Exposure is used to create the same feelings of disappointment and dissatisfaction.
Owens’s poetry is a serious commentary on the waste and pity of war: the absence of true rhyme creates dissatisfaction in the reader- like the war which is not as it should be-Owens’s rhymes are not true either.

TONE- “pupils really don’t get tone”

What is it?

Expression of a feeling or mood

How do you convey this?

What is the tone you create in your own writing?

Is it difficult to decide tone in written text? It is sometimes difficult to understand tone from reading alone. Often we understand tone from the way in which something is said both voice and body language.

Examples of tone (Bold Girls):

Ironic, Sarcastic, Humourous, Angry. Melancholic, Sad, Depressing.

The Big Question ?

What is the tone of Exposure?

Sad, expectant, subdued

Read Exposure Aloud

ncertain, ironic, sad, muted, hushed, depressing, despair
How is this ‘tone’ created in Exposure?

  1. Word choice and phrases.

References to death and dying: Ghosts drag home,

2. Sound of language: sibilance, hushed repetition of ‘s’suggests soft whispering, quiet scared voices, soldiers afraid.

3. Para rhyme: deliberate use of related half-rhyming words, changes to vowels, has an unsettling, dissatisfying effect.

dazed/dozed, salient/silent, rumbles/brambles

4. Repetition:

But nothing happens’, echoes the idea of nothing happening in terms of active battles which are anticipated which is eventually ironic as something terrible happens in that the soldiers die, not in battle but by the attack of the weather.

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