Compare And Contrast Wilfred Owen's 'futility' And Thom Gunn's 'the Reassurance'

2044 words - 9 pages

Gunn's 'The Reassurance' and Owen's 'Futility' are thematically apt for comparison as they both focus on death. They will be interesting to compare regarding the causes of death- AIDS and war- being natural or man-made.Structurally, the poems are similar on the page, both being split up into stanzas. Their different uses of rhyming techniques are also useful areas for comparison and contrast, one poet choosing half instead of full-rhyme and the changing the position of the rhymes in each stanza. The reasons for this become evident when analysing the poems in-depth.'The Reassurance' is about the death of someone the narrator knew (from AIDS). It describes this person as 'kind' to move away from the stereotypical view of AIDS sufferers being unclean or taboo. This person's ghost has come back in a dream to reassure the narrator, although the narrator admits that his mind constructed the dream to protect him.Owen's 'Futility' is about a soldier who has died. He has been laid in the sun to try and revive him but all attempts to save him are futile. The narrator considers the point of life on Earth if it is so fragile and seemingly pointless.Not surprisingly, and implied by its title, 'Futility' has a tone of helplessness and a resulting resentment and confusion. We can infer this tone of resentment by Owen's use of phrases such as:'-Oh what made fatuous sunbeams toilTo break earth's sleep at all?' (Owen, 'Futility')Here, Owen is considering, if trying to live is so futile, why the sun created life on earth at all. Does life have any purpose or meaning other then eventual death?The tone of Gunn's 'The Reassurance' is one of remembrance and understanding of both the situation and his own mind's protection. We can infer the tone of Gunn's poem from statements within it such as:'And, yes, how like my mindTo make itself secure.'Here, he is showing understanding of the working of his mind and acceptance of the person's death.Wilfred Owen was a soldier in WW1, which explains the topic of his poem and, considering the death and 'futility' of trying to survive that he experienced first-hand, the tone of helplessness and resentment present in 'Futility'.Gunn based a great deal of his poetry on his experiences, although not personal, with AIDS. Therefore, even though it doesn't state how the person in the poem died, 'fleshed out again' implies the effects of AIDS having been reversed in his dream.It is important to note when comparing 'Futility' and 'The Reassurance' that one cause of death is man-made (war) and the other is a result of a disease (AIDS).Owen handles the theme of death by looking at the bigger picture of war and life itself. We can infer from the poem that he realises that although this dead soldier's life should be important, both the mortality rate of those at war and when considering all those who die around the world every day, it is not.Owen's poem is a questioning one; he knows that he cannot know the answers himself so he asks the loaded questions about the point of life for the readers to consider themselves. He considers the permanence of death-how if the sun created and sustains all life on earth, can it fail to revive one soldier who is still warm with recent life?Gunn, on the other hand, focuses on the ravages of disease leading to death and then our reaction to death on somewhat of a universal level. Gunn says regarding his mind creating closure to protect itself:'What I'm saying there is that we control the contents of our dreams' (Thom Gunn)The one-on-one description of the situation is well-designed to create emotional memories about anyone they also might have lost in their lives. This means that everyone who reads this will be effected in a different way and have memories of similar experiences, such as a dream soon after the death of a close friend/relation.'Futility' by Owen is full of turns, contrasting images and changing tone. To start, the first three lines sound full of hope, a stark contrast to the poem's title, and we are led to believe the soldier is not dead. Here, the sun is an image of healing. We are introduced to the idea that this soldier is a young man by the term, 'fields unsown'. This refers to what has yet had a chance to do, away from the war. However, words such as 'whispering' and the feeling of calm only reinforce the hope in this poem.The first change of tone occurs from the fourth line. The contrast between the warmth of the sun in the previous lines with the reality of the cold winter is somewhat demoralising. When we add this feeling to the presence of words such as 'always' and 'even', the tone becomes lower still as we realise he has been fighting for a long time and up until now he has managed to survive. Somehow the reference to the 'kind old sun' no longer seems as full of hope.The power of the sun, described as waking the 'cold star' can be compared to its inability to wake this young soldier, now the 'cold star'. We are then led to consider the life of this boy. The idea of his life being 'dear achieved' makes us consider, although he is young, how long it has taken to create the person he is. We are made to think, in a war that makes one death seem inadequate, how important and amazing his life really was. So arises the bitterness and helplessness of the last few lines. The sun can create a whole world from nothing but cannot revive one boy that is 'still warm' from life, having just died.The end of 'Futility' is one of questions that are seemingly unanswerable. We are made to consider the purpose of life if it is to end in pointless deaths like these. The 'clay grew tall' refers to the creation of man and questions the reason for the sun bringing life to the Earth.Lastly, we are met with a feeling of lost hope and resentment. There is a dramatic change of image for the sun - warm and hopeful at the beginning- now being utterly useless and even spiteful.When looking at the form of this poem on the page, it is split into two stanzas, each seven lines long. The biggest change in tone from hope to resentment happens between the two stanzas and their separation makes this obvious.The lines of 'Futility' all have an even amount of syllables, which give the poem a strong rhythm. Notably, both the first and last line of each stanza has six syllables which bookend the poem and separates the conflicting feelings within it.There are a few very interesting points to note about this poem structurally. Firstly, the rhyming scheme is one that stands out because Owen has chosen visually similar but only half-rhyming words such as 'sun' and 'sown', 'once' and 'France' This word usage creates the same rhythm that is attained by full rhyme but also conceals another purpose made clear at the end of the poem. Just as the reality of life does not match the brilliance of its creation, so the words don't quite match each other. The off-kilter of the rhyming echoes the unbalance of life and creation.The syntax is carefully arranged so that the image of the sun is used encircle the rest of the lines. This emphasises its power and seeming control over the creation and sustaining of life.The layout of Gunn's 'The Reassurance' is of three stanzas, which separate the different aspects of the poem in a similar way to Owen's poem.The first stanza leads us to believe that the narrator has been visited by his dead acquaintance in a dream, and who passes on the message that he is O.K. to reassure him. Interestingly, there are two striking features about this first stanza. Firstly, the person who has died is not named which seems a little impersonal. We can compare this to Owen's soldier boy in 'Futility' who also has no name. This links the poems nicely because both focus on one person who has died as a result of something that kills millions of people. It makes us feel that they are two faces within a huge crowd, which has stripped them of their identity. Secondly, Gunn uses the word 'we' instead of, perhaps, 'my friends and I'. This is effective in a similar way to not naming the victim in his poem because, like those who die from AIDS, there are so many affected by their deaths that they also lose their identity.Another important aspect of this first stanza is that it establishes the narrator as well as the subject. This narrator is seemingly out of control of the situation. Compare this to the opening line of 'Futility', which seems to be a command. From this we could assume that the narrator of this poem is in control. However, we can see that this has changed by the end of the poem. The narrator of 'Futility' is the helpless one, whereas Gunn's narrator is the one in control of the action of the poem.Gunn unravels just a little more in the second stanza by describing what the content of the dream was. This stanza states that the person is 'fleshed out' again. This could be construed as a double entendre in that it could mean that he literally has a body again, but it could also emphasise the debilitating effect of AIDS on the body. Gunn then continues to say that they hugged which aims to squash any unwarranted fear of those with AIDS.This idea of trying to wipe out people's prejudices about AIDS sufferers is continued into the third stanza. This victim of the disease is described as being 'kind'. Giving him this attribute not only recovers some of his lost identity but also re-emphasises that this person is a good human being who does not deserve to be stigmatised or alienated by the rest of us.It is here also that we discover as readers that the narrator understands that, although the person would have come back to reassure him if they could, the dream is something that his own mind created in order to protect itself.In terms of effectiveness, I feel that Wilfred Owen's poem handles the theme of death in the most striking and evocative way. His changing imagery of the sun helps to conjure up pictures in our minds of what he is describing. This makes the profound questions he asks in his poem extremely emotional to read and we really feel for the people around the young soldier as well as the soldier himself.WEBSITES:The Wilfred Owen Association, Copyright Kenneth Simcox , 2000, Viewed on 20/04/06 at 17:15Wilfred Owen, Visited on 22/02/06 at 21:50Between the Lines, Interviews with Poets, Viewed on 23/04/06 at 22:19BOOKSKeegan, Paul (ed.), The Penguin Book of English Verse, 2004, Penguin Classics: St IvesLennard, John, The Poetry Handbook, 2005, Second Ed, Oxford University Press: St Ives

RELATED

Wilfred Owen's poetry and the links to images of horror - Year 12 - Essay

1462 words - 6 pages Wilfred Owen Essay Throughout his body of work, Wilfred Owen powerfully conveys the horror and pity of war, confronting the reader with extraordinary images of intense human suffering. Owen exploits the medium of poetry to offer a vitriolic critique of the brutality of war, portraying the chaotic setting of WW1 and exposing the propagandist government’s betrayal of generations of young boys who were forced to endure this suffering in service of

The Awakening And The Pearl Compare And Contrast Essay

2487 words - 10 pages The Awakening, by Kate Chopin is a novel that discusses the awakenings of a Victorian woman living in New Orleans. The Pearl, by John Steinbeck is a novel that tells the story of a poor pearl diver who tries to seek wealth and happiness for his family. After finding a large pearl he believes that all his problems are over. He is soon to learn that this pearl would only cause him more grief and unhappiness than he had before. Both books are

compare and contrast the crucibles - English 3 AP - essay

449 words - 2 pages Andrea Aguilar 09/12/18 APUSH 1A Period 2(1607-1754) Key terms · Tobacco-a preparation of the nicotine-rich leaves of an American plant, which are cured by a process of drying and fermentation for smoking or chewing. · Indentured servants-men and women who signed a contract(also known as an indenture or a covenant) by which they agreed to work for a certain number of years in exchange for transportation to Virginia and, once they arrived, food

Compare and Contrast- Absolute and Parliamentary Monarchy

515 words - 3 pages Since the postclassical period, feudal monarchy had defined Western politics.This finally came to an end when the power balance kept between king and nobles was undone in the 17th century.In many countries, after religious wars, monarchs had gained new powers; reducing the pressure from nobles and chances of revolt. France was the model for this new pattern, now the most important nation in the West. French kings steadily built up their power in

Compare And Contrast Machiavelli And Max Weber

2073 words - 9 pages Free 1Machiavelli and Weber: Comparing Political PhilosophiesMoses TeeUniversity of AlbertaNovember 7th 2013Philosophy is referred to as a set of beliefs, concepts and attitudes held by an individual or a group of people. It is the study of problems in general and the prescription of solutions to problems based on critical and systemic analyses and the employment of rational argument. Philosophy through the lens of Political Science does so as

Romeo & Juliet Compare and Contrast - English - Essay

579 words - 3 pages Karina Martinez 03/01/2018 Compare and Contrast Essay The well known story called Romeo and Juliet created by William Shakespeare, is about two young tennagers that fall in love but neither of their families want them together because, they are both rivals. Romeo came from a family named the Montagues and Juliet came from a family named the Capulets. Throughout the story Shakespeare creatively describes the love they have towards each other

9-11 Incident Compare And Contrast

392 words - 2 pages Free 9-11 Incident Compare and ContrastOn September 11th 2001 terrorists attacked both the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. They succeeded in destroying the Twin Towers buildings. There have been many significant events in American History. Two, which stand above the others as turning points for the United States, are Pearl Harbor and the assassination of J.F. Kennedy.Pearl Harbor changed the mindset of every American in the nation. It sent a message

Compare and contrast on a reading about views of birds, with the use of rhetorical strategies. - Virtual AP Language and Composition - Compare and Contrast Essay

571 words - 3 pages Throughout both passages many flocks of birds are seen, the observers said they came and came. The observers watched the birds for countless hours, while writing down what they saw and felt. While both observed their beauty and they way they flew perfected and together, they had different ideas about the purpose of what the birds meant to them. Observer Audubon and Dillard noted how geometrically beautiful the birds were and the flocks they flew

compare and contrast of Atlantis and El Dorado - Alberta University of the Arts - Essay

1572 words - 7 pages Larissa Serson Engl 212 Mark Giles March 29, 2019 Finding the Lost Are these cities Atlantis and El Dorado are lost to the times we look to the past and present we as humans like the idea of lost or being unable to find things that will better our lives. In the past Atlantis a lost city was a myth that many believed to be real, where currently we look to find the lost treasure of Eldorado. As a society we look to the unknown for some adventure

Reflection Of Directing Styles In Saving Private Ryan And The Patriot-APA (Compare And Contrast)

1304 words - 6 pages Saving Private Ryan vs. The PatriotMoviemakers have the power to portray the world as they see it. Since there are so many different directors out there, we as viewers, are presented with a variety of interpretations. I am a gigantic movie buff, and have therefore watched every war movie directed. If one director views war as completely disastrous, while yet another sees glory in it, we would find ourselves viewing two contrasting depictions of

Compare And Contrast The Views Of Thomas Hobbes And John Locke

737 words - 3 pages Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704) greatly disagreed on many key issues of their day; issues such as human nature, political authority, and the right of people to rebel. Hobbes studied before the Enlightenment, whereas that influenced John Locke's views immensely. Hobbes's ideas are also derived from his pessimistic view of human nature. He viewed people as selfish and greedy. To the contrary, Locke viewed people as good and

Compare And Contrast The Roman Catholic Church With The Baptist Church

1265 words - 6 pages pastor takes on the role of spiritual leadership, while a deacon serves as moderator of board meetings. A common practice is for each family to be assigned a specific deacon, to be the primary point of contact whenever a need arises. In contrast, the Pope is the Head of the Catholic Church; he is elected by the cardinals and remains Pope for life. After the Pope are the Cardinals, when a Pope passes away one of them is elected as the new pope

Is the movie "Sully" accurate compared to the true story? - 10th grade English - compare and contrast

971 words - 4 pages 1 Nawaz Eman Nawaz English 10B January 16th, 2018 “Sully”: Based on A True Story On January 15th, 2009, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger had to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River due to a flock of geese that damaged both of the engines on the flight. Everyone evacuated the sinking plane with their life jackets on, jumping onto life rafts and even ferry boats that cruised on the freezing waters of the Hudson River. Due to his

Compare and Contrast between Hester's and Dimmesdale's sin. - JVHS - Essay

717 words - 3 pages 2 “You are free to choose, but you are not free to alter the consequences of your decisions.” ― Ezra Benson. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, the struggle to take off the weights of the past is an important theme throughout the novel. Two of the main characters, Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale, both stagger under the heavy guilt and shame brought upon them by society and by themselves due to having committed adultery

Compare And Contrast Mr. Frank And Mr. Van Daan

711 words - 3 pages Victoria GonzalezMs. Rachid and Ms. ArteagaReading 8-114 October 2014"The Gnome, The Gnat and The Gnu " by Shel SilversteinShel Silverstein, born September 25 1930, started writing poems when he was twelve years old. He started writing poems because he had no athletic ability and couldn't play with other boys so he kept himself entertained by writing funny poems. He began developing his own technique to write poems because he had no one to mimic