Bayonet Charge And Exposure Analysis

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Both Ted Hughes and Wilfred Owen present war in their poems “Bayonet Charge” and “Exposure”, respectively, as terrifying experiences, repeatedly mentioning the honest pointlessness of the entire ordeal to enhance the futility of the soldiers' deaths. Hughes’ “Bayonet Charge” focuses on one person's emotional struggle with their actions, displaying the disorientating and dehumanising qualities of war. Owen’s “Exposure”, on the other hand, depicts the impacts of war on the protagonists' nation, displaying the monotonous and unending futility of the situation by depicting the fate of soldiers who perished from hypothermia, exposed to the horrific conditions of open trench warfare before dawn.

The use of third-person singular pronouns in “Bayonet
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The poem starts with the adjective 'suddenly', with no explanation or scene-setting other than the title. Although the soldier is unlikely to have been actually asleep, the idea that he 'awoke' from a sleep-like state of stillness or waiting into a state of action sets the whole poem into a 'hyper-real' mode, initially suggesting the adrenaline rush of the soldier and his heightened curiosity and courage to go over the trench. “Exposure”, on the other hand, contrasts with “Bayonet Charge” by being anticlimactic, with Owen repeating the phrase “But nothing happens” at the end of several stanzas; ironically, as the most significant event does happen; their death. The repeated refrain represents the boredom of waiting for action experienced by soldiers during long extended battles and emphasizes the monotonous feeling of war, helping the reader understand why exactly war is such a pointless ordeal. This invokes a feeling of despair in the reader because while in “Bayonet Charge” the protagonist is attempting to survive the war “To get out of that blue crackling air His terror’s touchy dynamite”, there is a feeling of hopelessness surrounding “Exposure”, with the desire of dying being expressed repeatedly in the poem; fact being that them living to see another dawn, amotif…show more content…
In “Bayonet Charge”, it is easily observable that while initially the soldier appeared to be obeying orders- “Suddenly he awoke and was running”, the idea is almost immediately juxtaposed with the metaphor- “the patriotic tear that had brimmed in (the soldier’s) eye (was) Sweating like molten iron from the centre of his chest”. This demonstrates clearly the depreciation of the soldier’s initial patriotism. The use of the past perfect verb “had brimmed” followed by the present continuous verb “sweating” highlights the change in his attitude towards war before and after his experiences, possibly suggesting dulled emotions and a more realistic and developed thought process. The use of the term “molten iron” suggests the weight of his burden as well as the painful experience he is now undergoing due to it. This idea is further reinforced by the rhetorical question, “In what cold clockwork of the stars and nations Was he the hand pointing that second?” This metaphor displays his uncertainty as per his crucial part in that moment in time. The soldier pictures himself as the hand on a clock, subject to the inevitable force of a clockwork motor that cannot be slowed or quickend. He realises that he does not really know why he is running and feels “statuary in mid-stride”. However, towards the end of the poem, all moral justifications for the existence of war have become meaningless-
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