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Poetry about Conflict: 'Futility'

In this worksheet, students develop their understanding of poetry by answering questions on Wilfred Owen's poem 'Futility'.

'Poetry about Conflict: 'Futility'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

Curriculum topic:  

Curriculum subtopic:  

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

This worksheet will help you develop your understanding of poetry.

Read the following poem written by Wilfred Owen (1893–1918), a soldier, in the trenches of World War One. 

 

 

******************


Futility


Move him into the sun -

Gently its 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?

Hope - stock photo

 

******************

This poem is about an injured and probably dead soldier in World War One. What country is it set in?

 

Tyne Cot Cemetery in Ypres, Belgium.  Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing is a Commonwealth War Graves burial ground for the dead of the First World War in the Ypres. - stock photo

England

Germany

France

What is the poet questioning in the poem?

Why we fight in wars when it is a pointless waste of life.

What is the point of creating life if it can be so easily destroyed.

Why it has to be him that discovers the dead soldier.

The poet mainly uses half rhyme rather than full rhyme to make the poem seem more conversational and less formal.

Match the following words from the poem with their half-rhyme partners.

Column A

Column B

sun
stir
once
unsown
seeds
sides
star
France

The poem is structured in two stanzas. What does each stanza begin with?

a command or imperative

a rhetorical question

a simile

The poet uses a mixture of the past and present tense.

Match the following quotations with past or present tense.

Column A

Column B

'Move him into the sun'
past tense
'Always it woke him'
present tense
'Think how it wakes the seeds'
past tense
'Woke once the clays of a cold star.'
present tense

What is the poet's attitude in the last two lines of the poem?

 

********************

- O what made fatuous sunbeams toil

To break earth's sleep at all?

********************

he thinks the sun is useless now the man is dead

he feels that it is pointless that life was ever created if it can be destroyed so easily

he wants to break the earth

What technique is the poet using in his description of the sun:

'The kind old sun will know.'

simile

metaphor

personification

How is the sun being portrayed?

as a friend who is powerless to help the dead soldier

as an enemy who refuses to help the dead soldier

What is the effect of the questions that are directed at the reader in the final stanza? Select three correct answers from below.

to make the reader emotionally involved in the poem

to show a build-up of the poet's emotions

to show that the poet is no longer mourning the dead solider

to challenge the reader to consider why the soldier's life has been wasted

What attitudes and feelings towards conflict are explored in this poem? Select two correct options below.

sympathy and respect for the dead soldier

anger at the waste of life caused by war

anger that the soldier wasn't a better soldier

  • Question 1

This poem is about an injured and probably dead soldier in World War One. What country is it set in?

 

Tyne Cot Cemetery in Ypres, Belgium.  Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing is a Commonwealth War Graves burial ground for the dead of the First World War in the Ypres. - stock photo

CORRECT ANSWER
France
EDDIE SAYS
The poem is set in France. It tells us this in the first stanza.
  • Question 2

What is the poet questioning in the poem?

CORRECT ANSWER
What is the point of creating life if it can be so easily destroyed.
EDDIE SAYS
The poet is questioning what is the point of creating life if it can be so easily destroyed. The poem talks of all the other things that the sun is able to bring to life and is sad that the life of this man has been destroyed and the sun can no longer wake him.
  • Question 3

The poet mainly uses half rhyme rather than full rhyme to make the poem seem more conversational and less formal.

Match the following words from the poem with their half-rhyme partners.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

sun
unsown
once
France
seeds
sides
star
stir
EDDIE SAYS
Using half-rhyme here also suggests that the world no longer feels secure and ordered after the death of the man.
  • Question 4

The poem is structured in two stanzas. What does each stanza begin with?

CORRECT ANSWER
a command or imperative
EDDIE SAYS
Each stanza begins with a command or imperative. 'Move' and 'Think' are both orders for the reader and invite us to mourn the loss of this soldier along with the poet.
  • Question 5

The poet uses a mixture of the past and present tense.

Match the following quotations with past or present tense.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

'Move him into the sun'
present tense
'Always it woke him'
past tense
'Think how it wakes the seeds'
present tense
'Woke once the clays of a cold st...
past tense
EDDIE SAYS
The effect of this shows how different the world is now the soldier is dead, and how happy life used to be before.
  • Question 6

What is the poet's attitude in the last two lines of the poem?

 

********************

- O what made fatuous sunbeams toil

To break earth's sleep at all?

********************

CORRECT ANSWER
he feels that it is pointless that life was ever created if it can be destroyed so easily
EDDIE SAYS
The poet asks why the sun worked so hard ('toil') to wake earth up and create life if it is just going to end in death.
  • Question 7

What technique is the poet using in his description of the sun:

'The kind old sun will know.'

CORRECT ANSWER
personification
EDDIE SAYS
The poet is using personification in his description of the sun, by describing it as 'kind' which is a human characteristic.
  • Question 8

How is the sun being portrayed?

CORRECT ANSWER
as a friend who is powerless to help the dead soldier
EDDIE SAYS
The sun is portrayed as a friend who is powerless to help the dead soldier. Although the sun is 'kind' it is also described as 'old' which suggests it doesn't have the strength to be able to awaken the soldier.
  • Question 9

What is the effect of the questions that are directed at the reader in the final stanza? Select three correct answers from below.

CORRECT ANSWER
to make the reader emotionally involved in the poem
to show a build-up of the poet's emotions
to challenge the reader to consider why the soldier's life has been wasted
EDDIE SAYS
By asking the reader questions, the poet invites us to think about how we would feel if this was happening to someone we knew and loved. It makes the poem more effective and emotive. It also suggests the poet's hopelessness; he doesn't know the answer to these questions and is looking to the reader to help him understand.
  • Question 10

What attitudes and feelings towards conflict are explored in this poem? Select two correct options below.

CORRECT ANSWER
sympathy and respect for the dead soldier
anger at the waste of life caused by war
EDDIE SAYS
Look at the mix of positive and negative language in the poem. The positive words like 'gently' and 'warm' show his respect and the negative words like 'cold' and 'break' show how angry he is.
---- OR ----

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