Wilfred Owen Futility Summary Analysis Questions Answers

Wilfred Owen's Poem Futility Summary Analysis Questions Answers

Wilfred Owen's Futility Analysis Summary Questions Answers

The poem "Futility" written by Wilfred Owen is an anti-war poem was first brought out in the year 1920. Several battles were fought in the first World War which started in 1914 and continued upto 1918. In France, there was a battle field on which an English soldier succumbed to fighting. His death was shocking, tragic and heart-rending. This incident led Owen to write the poem, "Futility".


Wilfred Owen

Move him into the sun -

Gently it's touch awoke him once, 

At home, whispering of fields unsown. 

Always it woke him, even in France, 

Until this morning and this snow. 

If anything might rouse him now

The kind old sun will know. 

Think how it wakes the seeds, 

Woke, once, the clays of a cold star. 

Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides, 

Full-nerved - still warm - too hard to stir? 

Was it for this the clay grew tall? 

- O what made fatuous sunbeams toil

To break earth's sleep at all? 

Click on the Play button below to get the Summary and Analysis of the poem 

Summary of the poem Futility:

The poet asks a dead soldier to be moved to the sun. The sun awoke the man every morning when he was a farmer. It awoke him in France where he fought battles. Now the soldier is dead. Only the sun which is the source of all energy can revive the dead soldier. The sun wakes the seeds. The sun brought life to the earth which was once cold. It nourished and developed life and made it strong and hard. But life ends cruelly and miserably in battle-field. The poet asks why the sun was so foolish to create and evolve life on the earth when it is to end so cruelly in the battle-field. 

Title of the poem Futility:

The title of the poem, "Futility" can be justified variously. The word "Futility" means uselessness. The poem exposes the uselessness of the creation of life by the sun while many a life ends so carelessly in war before its time. In another sense, we find in war nothing glorious, nothing noble and even nothing praiseworthy. It results only in the huge loss of life. So war is a futility. 

On the other hand, the poet speaks about the futility of the work of the sun to bring life to birth. The sun is the great giver of life. Sunbeams are the source of energy which mould the earth with the thrill of life. The sun not only cause life to come into existence but it also helps life to develop into full grown beauty with youthfulness. But the poet thinks that the sun's effort has been fruitless or futile as wars kill millions of young people before they can manifest into meaningful existence. This justifies the title of the poem, "Futility".

Read More:

Wilfred Owen's Strange Meeting Analysis Summary Questions Answers 

Wilfred Owen as a poet:

Wilfred Owen was born on March 18, 1893 at Oswestery, a small town in Shropshire in England. The first World War broke out in 1914 and he joined the war in 1915. He had an injury to his brain for a fall in the battlefield. On November 4, 1918 he was killed in an attempt to cross the Sambre Canal. 

The few poems he left us indicate that he was a great thinker, and a critic of life. The pictures of war drawn by his suggestive words fill the readers with profound pity ; 'pity of war' is the subject of his poetry. He finds nothing glorious, romantic or heroic in war. 

He began his poetic career with Keats and Tennyson as his models. It was the friendship with Sassoon that made him a war poet. He wrote his poems in the trenches and exposed the horror and pity of war. 

Chief Works of Wilfred Owen:

The chief works of Wilfred Owen include - "The Send Off", " Strange Meeting ", " Spring Offensive"

Source of the poem Futility:

The poem, "Futility" was first brought out in the year 1920. Several battles were fought in the First World War, started in 1914. In France there was a battle field on which an English soldier succumbed to fighting. His death was shocking and tragic. This incident led Wilfred Owen to write the poem, "Futility". The poem "Futility" is taken from the volume "Collected Poems" published in 1920.

Critical Analysis of the poem Futility:

The poem, "Futility" is an anti-war poem. The poet exposes the horror and pity of modern warfare. Modern warfare is nothing but the destruction of life and creative principles of the earth and Nature. The poet objectively and ironically presents the picture of the horror of war, pity of young life struck down in war in the prime of his life. The futility of creative principles and energy are symbolised by the sun. 

There is a story here in the background of the poem. A young farmer of England came to France to fight in battle. He woke up one morning in winter as he used to wake up everyday at the touch of sunrays. But on that day, he was killed in a battle. 

The poet then turns to the 'kind old sun' who created life on the earth. The sun is called old as the sun existed long before the earth. The sun is the great giver of life on the earth long since. The sun moulds the earth with thrill of life. The sun which is the source of energy and principle of life can not bring back life to the dead young man. The poet in his pity, anger and sense of horror asks the sun why it created life if it can not preserve and sustain life. The poet puts the question ironically in the poem. 

Questions Answers from the poem Futility:

1. How does the poet draw the picture of the dead and poet's vain attempt to bring him back to life? 

Ans: In the poem, "Futility", the poet has shown that a soldier is killed in a battle in France during the First World War. The poet wants the dead body to be carried to the sunrays. The sun's gentle touch roused the young man from bed everyday when he was at home in England and woked in the fields. With the sunrise he woke up and went to the fields. He was sent to France to join war and here also the sun woke him up every morning until the snowy morning of the day on which he was killed. Thus, the sun is great supplier of life on the earth. Its blessings and warmth keep men full of life and energy. So the poet thinks that the sun may rouse the dead man because death is also a kind of sleep. Besides, the sun knows the secret of life and enlivens and energises everything on the earth. So the poet wants the dead soldier to be moved into the sun. 

2. What is the poet's attitude to war in the poem Futility? 

Ans: In the poem, "Futility" not protest but pity combined with sympathy is the predominant attitude of the poet. The poet has shown his profound sympathy for those young people who laid down their lives not for any higher ideal of life, but for evil design of war-mongers. The poet has opined that the birth of a child is meaningless unless the war can be banished from the surface of the earth. 

3. Explain the title of the poem Futility and what attitude is expressed in the title? 

Ans: Futility means uselessness and insignificance. There may two meanings in the title. Human life is futile because a young man us struck down in the battle field prematurely. The young soldier is killed in the battle field before the fulfillment of their dreams and desires. The title, therefore, suggests not only the horrors of modern war but also the pity. 

Futility may also mean the insignificance of the sun's hard and long efforts to create living beings. The sun creates and develops human life - make it strong, well-nerved, hard but wars destroy human life suddenly and cruelly. Modern wars prove how useless are the creations of the sun. The kindness of the sun is contrasted with the cruelty of modern wars. 

4. "O what made fatuous sunbeams toil / To break earth's sleep at all"  

What is earth's sleep? Why are sunbeams called fatuous? 

Ans: The eternal slumber into which the earth was lost when it was created, with no existence of life in it, has been termed as 'earth's sleep.'

    Wilfred Owen has portrayed the sun as an utter failure as a creator of life. The sun is the springboard of life on earth. It is the sun who makes the seeds sprout. It is the sun who supplies life and energy on earth and makes a child to grow up into well-built young man with mobility and vigour. The sun, though a creator, is not at all a saviour. He can not revive a lost life. He completely fails to restore the dead soldier to life. So the poet calls the sunbeams fatuous. 

5. What is the central image of the poem, "Futility" ? 

Ans: The central image of the poem, "Futility" is the sun. Futility refers to the futility of the sun's toil to bring life to the planet, earth. The sun is the source of life and energy. It not only gives life to the dead mass of the matter but also provides energy and light to the living creatures. It awakes man everyday and inspires him to go to the work. The sun is the giver, inspired and developer of life. But irony is that it can not preserve life and revives the dead man. 

   With the sun image comes the associated image of 'wake'. The sun wakes the dead mass of matter; it wakes man every morning; it wakes the seeds. 'Wake' has the denotative and connotative meanings. So the sun creates, grows and develops creatures and plants but the sun is failure to preserve life, specially the young lives destroyed in modern warfare. 

6. Bring out the pathos contained in the poem, "Futility".

Ans: The predominant tone underlying in the poem, " Futility " is the pity of war. One young soldier falls dead in the battle field. It is a pity that he is killed in the youth before the fulfillment of his dreams. It is sad that he was born, and nourished with so much loved and care into a well-built man only to be killed so meaninglessly in war without any sound reason untimely. This is the pity of war underlying the pathos immensely. 

7. What is meant by 'clay' and what is the meant by 'tall' in the poem, "Futility"? 

Ans: The term 'clay' means earth, dust. Here it suggests the actual substance of matter from which our body is made. The earth is made of dead matter. It was vitalised by the heat of the sun. Life developed on earth. 

The word 'grew tall' suggests the evolution and development of living matter on the earth. 'Tall' here is a very suggestive word. Human life is the result of centuries of evolution. Tiny protoplasm has grown and developed into supreme creation which is destroyed in war mercilessly. 

8. How are the acts of war contrasted with those of the sun in the poem, "Futility"? 

Ans: In the poem, " Futility", the sun has been presented as a creator of life while war as a destroyer of it. The sun is not only made the seeds sprout but toiled hard for millions of years also create human beings on earth. It nourished them with so much care and love, and developed them with mobility and vigour. But war kills them so carelessly in a moment. Thus the creator, sun is sharply contrasted with the destroyer, war. 

9. "Move him into the sun" 

Who appeals to him into the sun? Why does he appeal? 

Ans: The poet appeals to move the young dead soldier into the sun. 

   The young soldier is lying dead in a trench in the battle field. The trench is shady because sunbeams can not enter there. The poet thinks that the sun can restore the soldier to life because the sun is the creator of life on earth and it knows the mystery of life and evolution. So the poet appeals the dead soldier to be moved into the sunshine. 

10. "Woke once, the clays of a cold star." - What is meant by 'clays of cold star' and who woke 'the clays of cold star'? 

Ans: The expression 'clays of cold star' means the mass of the earth. 

    The sun roused this earth from sleep to life. Before the creation of life on this earth, there was no throb or stir at all. It was the sun which stirred first this planet to the pulsation of life. 

11. What is the central idea of the poem, "Futility"? 

Ans: Man's life is futile un the context of the devastating war that takes place. Life has grown and developed through centuries but it is cut short by destructive wars. 

     In the poem, the poet shows how the life of a young soldier has become useless by the havoc created by war. On a certain battle-field in France he is found dead. The sun is the life-giver not only to human beings but also to plants. But it us very sad that this powerful sun will no be able to bring the dead soldier back to life. If human life comes to an abrupt cruel end in this way, the sun's hard work is futile. 

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