The poem titled “Futility” meaning uselessness or pointlessness. Owen is trying to say this war is the pointless war. The soldiers are useless that they’re dead. No matter how much the soldier work, it doesn’t worth it. The poem is written in fourteen lines and divided into two verses. The two verses are contrast each other. The first verse’s atmosphere is quite, soft, tender and peaceful and the second verse’s atmosphere sounds more desperate, frustrate, ridiculous and demanding for something to happen.
In the first verse, three verbs that describe the action of the Sun, move, gently, and touch are quite soft and tender. These verbs describe that the sun move softly, gently and touch the soldier to wake him up. The sun here means the sun that shines everyday to wake the man and at the same time it may symbolize religious. The sun that used to wake him up and care for him. It’s metaphor that the sun moves the man into the light.
The third line of verse one, it mentioned that the soldier was once a farmer. The word whispering is onomatopoeia meaning the sun is whispering to the man about the memories the man used to have on the farm. It’s a soft and tender plus pleading together. “Unsown” means that the field has not seeded but yet the sun is shining now to tell the man that it’s the beginning of the planting season now. In other meaning, the word unsown is metaphor that the soldier is still too young for them to join the war, as they haven’t start their adult life yet.
The fourth and fifth lines, ‘Always it awoke him, even in France, until this morning and this snow.’ The sun symbolizes the warmth of life and the snow symbolizes the coldness of death. The sun always arouses him everywhere even he’s in France but this morning is different because snow has partially block the man so the man wasn’t able to wake up. The word morning has two different meaning. One is the everyday morning, which is the beginning of the day and the second meaning referring to the word mourning. Owen is mourning for the man who has die.
The last two line of the last two line, Owen is pleading to god, please please if anything can rouse him now please do it and in this case only god who can do it. Only the old sun that used to be very kind can wake him up now. The sun here is personified by referring the sun as old and kind. Through the whole verse Owen create the sound by using assonance of the repetition of “ow” sound in woke, unsown, snow, rouse, now and know.
Owen used an imperative verb, think, at the beginning of the second verse. It’s order the reader to think and at the same time Owen also make it sound more desperate. He is desperate to think on how the sun will wake the seeds. The seeds here give the image of growth and nature and it symbolized the beginning of life. He is desperate to ask how god wakes the soldier that is already died on the ground.
The third line of the second verse mention the word “limbs”, it has two meaning. First a limb is a branch of a tree, which fit in with the nature. Second meaning means the pair of legs, arms and wings. Owen means that god create these nature and mankind. The line after this said “full-nerved, –still warm, — too hard to stir?” Owen means that he still don’t understand how the sun gives life to seeds, but not the warmness to these soldier.
The fifth line “Was it for this the clay grew tall?” this refer to the war. Clay is mud and mud comes from Earth. The clay grew tall; in this case the clay symbolized man. In this line Owen was asked what was this war for? Do we do all this to kill? Is this why we put him on this Earth? So what is the point of life?
The last two lines “—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil to break Earth’s sleep at all?” Owen ask this question starting with what made, he means what is the point of sending these men these men to the war and died there? It’s seems so silly that the sun create life for these him and then let them died with regret.
The first verse focuses upon a dead soldier and second verse asked why the sun is shining at all. Why there is life when there is such a suffering, Owen is trying to say if the sun can wake up life on Earth but why can’t it wake up his soldier because what he thinks is that if anything could make the soldier it must be the sun.
Futility means that something is destined to fail. The quality of producing no valuable effect, or of coming to nothing; uselessness. The structure of the poem is in balanced stanzas – the tenderness and hopefulness at the beginning; the growing bitterness of the second, with its climax. Owen is telling the persona’s story of the death of a comrade as a balance. This has to happen as so many of them died that there still has to be a degree of sanity left in them.
“Futility” mourns the sad ironic death of a soldier, a young man in a young body. An address to the sun, which gave the life to the earth and its inhabitants only for them to be cut down in this futile way, states a larger, more universal irony. The ‘futility’ of the poem concerns this death and all life in which such death occurs. The persona of the poem hopes that the sun will revive the dead one, as it had formerly stirred him whilst he was at home in England. The sun builds a contrast between the dead man’s life earlier in England and his death now in France. Owen makes the persona question if the sun can start life, why can’t it bring it back? The poem moves to the bitterness of the recognition of the ‘futility’ of life, i.e. “dear achieved.”
The theme in this poem is the pointlessness of human sacrifice and indeed, of life itself. The poem is also relevant to larger issues of human existence. He challenges the rhetoric of the nobility of war-service, and giving one’s life for their country. The tone of ‘futility’ conveys the sense of a lament (mourning) for the dead one, tenderly, at the beginning, and intensifies to bitterness at the futility of his death at the end. The change in tone reflects Owen’s change in attitudes towards the war. He started the war believing in the nobility of dying for your country, and the end of this poem is what he changed to.
The irreligious sense of this poem shows how many of the Christians lost faith as a result of WW1 and Owen was one of many. His previous poems talked of religious figures. He talks in this poem, of evolution and the sun beginning all creation, not the Creator. This shows his lack of faith, as he questions if evil is inevitable what is the point to life? The poem questions human existence, because of the evils produced as a result of WW1. ‘Futility’ expresses Owen’s rejection of the idea of goodness and purposefulness of human existence.
The snow is symbolic of the death, which turns a body cold. This is in contrast with the hopefulness of new life in the ‘fields half-sown’ of the soldier’s former life. The poem starts positively, with the hope that the move into the sun might be reviving for the soldier. Owen juxtaposes the tranquillity and beauty of rural England with the hideous battlefields of France. “Gently its touch awoke him at once, At home, whispering of fields half-unsown” Even in the unnatural environment of the battlefields of France he remained his connection with his natural awakenings to the sun, as he did on his farm at home. The sun’s rejuvenating power with the wintry world of death: “Until this morning and this snow” That affectionate personification of the sun might seem encouraging, but it could also be mocking it. The persona of the poem knows that no rousing will be taking place, even as he could like to believe it could, he seems to live in a childlike fantasy hoping for such things.
Owen then makes the persona question the entire purpose of the universe – back to the original creation: “think how it wakes the seeds – woke, once the clays of a cold star” this is the beginning of creation on earth. It ‘woke’ the earth to produce life. This is why he hopes it possible to bring him back to life: “are limbs so dear achieved, are sides Full-nerved, -still warm, – too hard to stir?”Another rhetorical question is when he asks “was it for this the clay grew tall?” showing his curiosity for the purpose for life and the role of humans in protecting the sun’s creations. The poem questions all meaning of life: “O what made the fatuous sunbeams toil To break earth’s sleep at all?” Owen’s opinions of the suns have changed from “kind old sun” to “fatuous sunbeams” where they are purposeless and useless. The passion of his query are emphasises by “O” as he wonders why the earth, which permits such cruelty to its creatures, was ever brought to life in the first place.
The growing intensity of the series of rhetorical questions towards the end of the poem culminates in the devastatingly bitter conclusion, and pauses are used for dramatic emphasis. The rhetorical questions force the reader to answer the questions on the futility of death in warfare.