Exposure- Wilfred Owen

Language techniques and their impact on Exposure by Wilfred Owen.


“we hear mad gusts tugging on the wire, like twitching agonies of men among brambles” This simile refers to the gusts of wind which are blowing and pulling on the barb wire fences surrounding the men. It compares this wind to men getting caught in brambles which are thick bushes with large spikes. These commonly get caught on clothes and skin pulling and trapping the men as they try to push through the brambles. This helps us to undersatnd how strong the wind is blowing into the men and the exposure they are open to. The wind is so strong it rips through the fences and hits the men at force and helps us to understand what it is like for the men as if the reader has experienced being caught in brambles/ blackberry bushes it is a struggle to get through.


” All their eyes are ice” This metaphor refers the men’s eyes and compares to them to ice. This helps us to understand that the men’s eyes are starting to glance over and become distant like a shiny piece of ice. The comparison tells us that they aren’t compared to being human anymore as they glaze over and start to lose feeling due to the cold and constant struggle of war.

” This frost will fasten on us” the metaphor tells us that the weather for the men at war is so cold that they will get surrounded and cover the men. This helps us to understand that the soldiers feel there is no escape from the exposure and cold and believe the frost will become part of them that night as it covers their skin and clothes as the temperatures drop. The first is described as a living thing which is gripping onto the men.


” Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army” this personification is used to describe the start of the day (dawn) which appears from the east. The language technique tells us that it is a sad dark morning as dawn is described as a sad army. This helps us to understand as readers that the dawn is not a bright sunny morning the soldiers were waiting for to warm their bodies and rather a glum and grey morning which is still cold. This tells the reader that the soldiers are depressed due to the dawn being almost as cold as the night and is said to be sad due to its lack of brightness.

” Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces” This language technique refers to the snow flakes which are falling from the cold sky are falling onto the men’s faces. The writer gives human qualities of snow flakes surprising the soldiers as they fall onto their faces which gives a sharp cold. This gives the reader as sense of how cold the atmosphere is for the men as it has to be below 0 degrees for snow flakes to be produced and the men have no shelter from the flakes which fall on their bare skin. It also gives us the image of something crawling and feeling ones face which helps us to also get the same sense of feeling the men have.

Rhetorical question

” What are we doing here” This rhetorical question helps us to understand the way the soldiers are feeling as they live through the exposure and cold of the war. They are asking themselves why did they join the army and for what reason are they putting themselves through this. This gives the sense of depression the men are feeling as they struggle to survive through each night. This makes us feel bad for the men and their hardship through war.

references to Exposure in the poem:

  • Merciless iced east winds
  • Mad gusts of wind
  • Misery of dawn
  • Rain soaks, clouds sag stormy
  • Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army
  • Shivering ranks of grey
  • The air that shudders back with snow
  • Flowing flakes that flock
  • Pale flakes
  • Snow-dazed
  • This frost will fasten on this mud and us

Explain what the references specifically tell you about the environment and conditions that the men experience. How is the winter presented as an enemy?

The authors reference to the very cold environment in which the men are fighting in tells us of how the winter weather is given qualities of an enemy which the men are battling against to save their lives. The poem has many examples of the cold wind which is blowing against the men which chills them. The idea the Misery of dawn gives us the idea that even the new day that has arrived is grey, dark and stormy. The cold weather in which the men are exposed to is given human qualities such as the frost which is fastening on the men and the snow flakes which feel their faces help us to understand that the men are not welcoming the cold weather as it is starting to kill them like an enemy would that they are fighting in war. The weather something the men are fearing like an army that they are going to battle with as some know that they are going to die due to the exposure to the cold wind, rain and frost which gives them hypothermia and eventually kills them. The Author continually refers back to the wind which is blowing from the east, it’s cold creeping inside their bodies. He also compares the black clouds which are going to snow are more deadly than the bullets coming from the army that they are battling with. This statement tells us the soldiers are more afraid of the weather which could get colder than the bullets being shot at the men which could kill them. These references to the extreme cold that the men are living through help us to understand what the men are thinking that the cold is a more frightening enemy than the battle that they fight against another country’s soldiers.

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