'Exposure' - Key Quotations

"Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knife us..."

- STANZA 1 -

CONTEXT:

The opening line of the poem. The tone is set as we are introduced to the fierce conditions that the soldiers face.

THEMES:

Nature; War

LANGUAGE:

Personification = the winds are described as "merciless", suggesting that nature itself is attacking the soldiers, knifing them.

Collective pronoun = "Our" and "us" tells us that there is a group of soldiers, all facing the same conditions and dangers as each another.

"Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous,

But nothing happens."

- STANZA 1 -

CONTEXT:

The speaker describes that atmosphere amongst the soldiers.

THEMES:

Fear; Nature

LANGUAGE:

Sibilance = the repetition of the 's' sound creates a harsh hissing, which could be imitating the sound of the wind.

"Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire.

Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles."

- STANZA 2 -

CONTEXT:

The speaker likens man-made objects with nature.

THEMES:

Nature; Violence

LANGUAGE:

Simile = the act of the wind tugging on the wire is compared to the suffering of soldiers. Natural objects ("gusts", "brambles") are used to portray nature's dominance over man.

"What are we doing here?"

- STANZA 2 -

CONTEXT:

The final line of the second stanza, in which the speaker asks a question that would have been asked by so many of the soldiers in the war.

THEMES:

Suffering; Hopelessness

LANGUAGE:

Rhetorical question = this question highlights how hopeless and lost the soldiers feel. They no longer know their purpose.

"The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow..."

- STANZA 3 -

CONTEXT:

The opening line of stanza three, in which the speaker describes the beginning of a new day.

THEMES:

Fear; Dread

LANGUAGE:

Contrast = 'dawn' is usually considered to be a hopeful, positive moment, and yet here it is being described as miserable. This implies that the soldiers are dreading what the day may bring.

"We cringe in holes"

- STANZA 5 -

CONTEXT:

The speaker continues to describe the impact war has on the soldiers.

THEMES:

Fear

LANGUAGE:

The soldiers are likened to animals, retreating in the face of fear to any place they can find to hide. It shows the instinctive, animalistic quality of flight that exists in man.

"Is it that we are dying?"

- STANZA 5 -

CONTEXT:

Another question is asked, one that again shows the mentality of the soldiers.

THEMES:

Confusion

LANGUAGE:

Rhetorical question = the soldiers are so badly affected by the conditions that they are confused and unsure as to what is happening.

"Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires glazed

With crusted dark-red jewels"

- STANZA 6 -

CONTEXT:

The speaker describes the impact of these conditions on the soldiers.

THEMES:

Nature; Death

LANGUAGE:

Metaphor = "crusted dark-red jewels" is a metaphor for frozen blood. This suggests that Owen sees the lives of these soldiers as incredibly valuable and precious, and yet they are ultimately wasted in conflict.

"For God's invincible spring our love is made afraid;"

"For love of God seems dying."

- STANZA 7 -

CONTEXT:

The speaker alludes to religion and how, due to the conditions they are facing, the soldiers are losing faith.

THEMES:

Religion; Hopelessness

LANGUAGE:

"our love is made afraid" tells us that the soldiers are losing faith in God and they feel abandoned and hopeless. This further emphasises how broken and damaged the soldiers are, both physically and mentally.

Contrast = religion is often used as a source of inspiration and comfort in difficult times, and yet here, as a result of the horrific conditions the soldiers face, even religion is losing its positive influence.

"...All their eyes are ice,

But nothing happens."

- STANZA 8 -

CONTEXT:

The final lines of the poem.

THEMES:

Eternal; Dehumanisation; Death

LANGUAGE:

Metaphor = "their eyes are ice" implies that not only are they literally frozen, but that the men themselves are empty, void of all emotion and life. Eyes are often considered a window into a person's soul, and so if the soldiers' eyes are ice, then it suggests that all humanity has been lost. They become shells of the men they once were.

Repetition = the final line echoes the final line of the first stanza, completing a loop and suggesting that this process continues infinitely.