Compare and contrast Wilfred Owen's 'Futility' and Thom Gunn's 'The Reassurance'

Essay by ManseUniversity, Bachelor's April 2006

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Gunn's 'The Reassurance' and Owen's 'Futility' are thematically apt for comparison as they both focus on death. They will be interesting to compare regarding the causes of death- AIDS and war- being natural or man-made.

Structurally, the poems are similar on the page, both being split up into stanzas. Their different uses of rhyming techniques are also useful areas for comparison and contrast, one poet choosing half instead of full-rhyme and the changing the position of the rhymes in each stanza. The reasons for this become evident when analysing the poems in-depth.

'The Reassurance' is about the death of someone the narrator knew (from AIDS). It describes this person as 'kind' to move away from the stereotypical view of AIDS sufferers being unclean or taboo. This person's ghost has come back in a dream to reassure the narrator, although the narrator admits that his mind constructed the dream to protect him.

Owen's 'Futility' is about a soldier who has died. He has been laid in the sun to try and revive him but all attempts to save him are futile. The narrator considers the point of life on Earth if it is so fragile and seemingly pointless.

Not surprisingly, and implied by its title, 'Futility' has a tone of helplessness and a resulting resentment and confusion. We can infer this tone of resentment by Owen's use of phrases such as:

'-Oh what made fatuous sunbeams toil

To break earth's sleep at all?' (Owen, 'Futility')

Here, Owen is considering, if trying to live is so futile, why the sun created life on earth at all. Does life have any purpose or meaning other then eventual death?

The tone of Gunn's 'The Reassurance' is one of remembrance and understanding of both the situation and his own mind's protection. We can infer the...