AUTOR(I): Goran J. Petrović
This paper analyzes “Futility”, one of the best poems by Wilfred Owen, a renowned British poet-soldier of the First World War. It shows that, in philosophical terms, the poem is based on existential nihilism as a view that human existence is intrinsically non-teleological. As the paper argues, Owen does not develop such a pessimistic world-view because of his great knowledge of Darwin’s or Nietzsche’s work as being emblematic of late nineteenth and early twentieth century pessimism, but because of his firsthand experience with the horrors of history’s first mechanized war. Owen’s nihilistic philosophy is viewed in contrast with the ideology of progress and utopianism as being prevalent over pessimism up until the outbreak of WWI and as being equally propounded by the secular philosopher Herbert Spencer and the Protestant liberal theologians. In brief, “Futility”, as a poem which presents the demise of a nameless British soldier, ends in the poet’s rhetorical question which explicitly doubts the purposefulness of human history. The paper also deals with “Futility’s” stylistic traits, and in doing so comes to the conclusion that the poem’s mood is for its most part temperate and elegiac with, in emotional terms, a somewhat more intense ending, just as it reveals that its irregular rhyming and metre reflect the poet’s reaction to the spiritual emptiness and chaos of war.
Wilfred Owen, existential nihilism, pessimism, Darwinism, Nietzscheism, poetry, the First World War
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