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Do now: define futility and predict what the

poem will be about.




Answer
Futility =

1. Producing no useful results
2. Pointless
To learn how a poet creates a sense
of misery
To learn and explain how and why
Owen used structure to create the
tone of Futility
Written in May 1918
Famously echoes Tennysons In Memoriam
Tennysons poem questions the nature of
death itself (regarded as one of the greatest
poems of the 19
th
century)

Futilitys title is taken from
Tennysons line:
O life as futile, then, as frail.
Futility depicts a dead soldier, a country man
whom the sun is unable to wake up, as it awakens
seeds in the ground. Owen asks, Was man
created for dying? And if so, what was the
purpose of the creation?
Owens message these deaths are utterly futile
and no meaningful result arises from them.

It is, therefore, a
philosophical poem.

The sun in Romantic Poetry is a symbol of life and a
moral or creative force sometimes in opposition to
God. The kind old sun is faithful because it always
shines, but the line:
Was it for this that the clay grew tall? (clay is the
human body as opposed to the spirit) suggests a
sense of religious questioning.

What is the purpose of life?
Owen structures his poem into two stanzas.
In the first, he shows us the dead soldier who
cant be woken, personifies the sun as a kindly
old man
Then, in the second verse he takes a step back
and questions life and the universe. Why is the
sun bothering at all?
Passive in stanza one tender in feeling for
the dead soldier
Rising anger in the second stanza as it moves
to question the meaning and purpose of life.


Owen builds up a central point in
this poem. How does he do this?
LYRIC: a short poem, song-like and full of
thought and emotional intensity
Two regular stanzas seven lines each [sestet]
The metrical pattern
Iambic lines, first and last of each stanza with
three feet (6 syllables), intervening ones with
4 feet (8 syllables)

is the effect of the authors words and tone on the
reader. It is the feeling that an author sets or
creates for the reader using carefully chosen words
and phrases, as well as other devices such as
repetition, rhyme, and hyperbole: the readers
mood.

So, whats the mood in Futility
and how does Owen create it?

Personification of the sun
Whispering of sun speaks to him like
a person
Kind old sun - makes the sun a fatherly,
almost grandfatherly, figure
Fatuous (foolish, silly) sun beams
Questioning the purpose of the life giving
force

There is a simplicity of diction many
monosyllables
Move him into the sun
The kind old sun will know
Was it for this the clay grew tall
Creates a sense of child-like questioning about
the meaning and purpose of life

Annotate the poem, making sure you note:
- what the poem is about;
- The different techniques Owen uses and WHY
he uses them
- Speculate about WHY he might have written
the poem
- Note down your PERSONAL responses, your
thoughts and feelings

What did you learn today?

On an exit-slip, write down:

1. 3 different ways Owen used techniques to
create a sense of misery
2. Write one sentence about the tone of the
poem
Put these explanations in the right
order (structure)
Owen asks what makes pointless sun wake up
the earth
Owen says the dead soldier should be moved
into the sun
Owen considers how the universe created
human beings who feel and have limbs
Owen thinks if anything could wake the soldier
it must be the sun
What does futility mean? Why does this poem
have this title?
What once woke up the soldier in this poem?
Owen personifies the sun. Why?
What are the clays of a cold star in stanza 2?
What is hard to stir?
How would you describe the tone of this poem?
Extension activities
Write a critical essay on the poem, explaining
why it is effective