The experiences of World War One are reflected in a variety of different ways. Poems are an excellent source of seeing how the different attitudes from the War, are expressed. In this essay, I will analyze the writers’ mood and tone, mood, language, and attitudes in “Dead Man’s Dump” and “Exposure”. The mood and tone in Dead Man’s Dump (DMD) are defined from the very first stanza. It is very descriptive and describes the actual movement of the horses that pull the gun carriages over a ruined and battle-wounded road (“Plunging limbers over the shattered track”). This creates a very negative image in the reader’s mind and sets an attitude against the War. There is also a powerful, prominent religious tone in the poem, which is also seen in the first stanza when the barbed wire is described as “Crowns of thorns,” which links towards the death of Christ.
This could imply that the soldiers, like Christ, are sacrificing their lives for God and their people. This could be seen as a Pro-War meaning. On the other hand, it could mean that the Soldiers are also doomed to die like Christ was doomed to be crucified. The Language used in DMD is very archaic, such as “Man Born of Man, and born of woman,” which reflects more of the religious undertone in the whole of the poem and expresses that people have since the age of Christ died for Christ and Kingdom. Moreover, the language is very emotive and strong, like in stanza three, “Now she has them at last,” where Earth is personified and is repossessing the men after she had made them, watched them live and now is waiting for the soldiers to die and return to her soil and be part of the earth again.
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The writer’s attitude, Isaac Rosenberg, is shown throughout the poem but is most prominent in the last stanza when he is describing one soldier dying. “So we crashed round the bend, / We heard his weak scream, / We heard his very last sound, / And our wheels grazed his dead face.” This is a very personal ending as Rosenberg uses a collective viewpoint and therefore includes himself into the poem, showing it from his personal experience. The last four lines of this poem seem very sudden, and it seems as if it is happening in the present with the reader. The impact of the experience of seeing the newly dead body not only affects the reader but also must have affected the writer, which he shows us through his writing.
Exposure has lots of different meanings. Even though it is only one word, it makes us wonder what he meant, who is exposed and to what? The men are exposed to the elements, which could be what the whole poem is about. It could be the men being exposed to death, so, like a flower, in winter which slowly freezes, until, eventually it shrivels up and dies, or it could be the men being exposed to the enemy but which is very unlikely as the enemy is not directly mentioned in the poem at all. In Exposure, the mood is dreary and cold and sad. Words that prove this are “Knive,” “Mad,” and Shaking Grasp.” It shows that this poem was an anti-war poem as it is graphic and truthful. Owen probably wanted to shock people because the description is very vivid. Also, a lot about the elements is mentioned, which shows that the real enemy was not the Germans (who are not mentioned at all in the poem) but the wind, snow, rain and hail, which could also be why he used this as one of his main themes.
Also, Misery was a theme which he showed by using “Wearied” and “Nervous,” which shows just how scared these men in the trenches were of everything. Exposure does not have a rhythm because it is very messy, and the dactylic diameter is weak. I think it shows the soldiers’ confusion and tiredness in the trenches, but it could also represent their slurred speech and their sluggish thoughts. It could also represent the mess and destruction so that we can picture it clearly. A very long layout of the stanzas is used in Exposure. The sentences are long and slow, which starts to bear down on the reader – to create a sense of empathy with the soldiers’ situation. Each stanza is cut short through the use of caesuras, which makes you more aware of the poem, sharply drawing your focus; Owen could be trying to represent how the soldiers jolt in and out of consciousness when they are on guard or waiting to fight and how they then are alerted by something like a flurry of bullets. It is very vivid and unpleasant, which Owen does purposely to mimic the soldiers’ experience.
The ellipsis help to show this too, “the poignant misery of dawn begins to grow…” Exposure demands a less deep understanding of it because the meaning is less hidden. The misery is very direct and powerful. This shows that Owen wanted the reader to empathize with the soldiers. An example of this is shown in stanza two: Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles, It is a use of imagery and personification. It also links the barbed wire to nature, which is used in the poem to show its harshness and merciless wrath. It could also be from a religious point of view, as it could mean that God is shunning them for causing a war on earth. This could mean that the men were on the verge of gaining or losing faith in God and that they are questioning his existence. Collective pronouns like “we” and “our” are used to show that the men are united and stand together against the enemy. But it could also mean that they are one writhing mass of pained soldiers that have changed so much that they are unidentifiable, that they have forgotten names and use collective pronouns.
Exposure is altogether a sombre and deep poem, as it encourages you to think about it a lot during the process of reading it. The reader empathizes during it and also, in the end, gets to feel a fraction of what the soldiers did in the trenches, so they are left with a sense of misery and distraught. It helps to learn about the soldiers by reading this, as it is very vivid and uses imagery and personification. Both “Dead Man’s Dump” and “Exposure” reflect very negative aspects of the war but different perspectives. Whereas “exposure concentrates on nature as an enemy, “DMD” concentrates on Death and Loss and is very personal, and they both help us to view the war in different, more realistic ways.