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 ...view middle of the document...

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...

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