In ‘Spring Offensive’, as in ‘Exposure’, Owen strongly reveals his newfound attitude to religion and his belief that there is no afterlife and starts to suggest that there may not even be a Christian God at all; his theme of the futility of war is also revisited. When the line, ‘The sun, – mightier than his whose bounty these have spurned’, appears it perhaps is suggesting that the sun is more powerful than God himself, as the reader presumes that ‘his’ is referring to God. This in turn suggests that the men are wasting their lives that the sun has given them, not God.
This strong suggestion Owen gives that God does not exist shows his total lack of belief in any such being at this moment in time. The talk of an ‘infinite space’ in the poem probably links to where the men go when they die, nothingness; reinstating Owen’s lack of belief in an afterlife/Heaven and Hell. It also goes back to his idea of the futility of war as the men are fighting and risking their lives to protect their country and themselves and those back home would like to believe that, if they do die, they are going to be with God; a consolatory myth.
Some of the men have survived through use of ‘superhuman inhumanities’. The survivors of the war are the ones who have done things they should be ashamed of, according to Owen. These people surviving then questions God’s existence, as they have survived on their own, not with God having any influence on them. This then makes the reader think that if there really is a God then surely he would not let these people kill others or even let a war start in the first place. The fact that Owen no longer believes in God perhaps lead him to believe that in which case there could be no afterlife as a result.
Owen’s idea that there is no God is very effective as his subtle techniques and words makes the reader themselves question if there truly is a God and again highlights perhaps one of the worst horrors of war, the futility of it all. The ending of ‘Exposure’ shows that the survivors show no remorse, like in ‘Spring Offensive’, and then confirms the theme of the futility of war. When the now dead bodies are being buried the people burying them are looking at ‘half-known faces’ and are picking them up with a ‘shaking grasp’. The reader is made to think, “Are they shaking from remorse for the dead soldier?
Or shaking simply because it is cold? ” The line ‘half-known faces’ then makes us think that they are shaking because it is cold because the burying party do not truly know the men they are burying that well; they only them how they were at war and they do not know what they were like pre coming to war; the lives they lead before are now gone, thrown away. The metaphor ‘all their eyes are ice’ suggests that the survivors, like in ‘Spring Offensive’ have no emotion or social conscience as they have themselves killed to survive. Hence, ‘their eyes are ice’ because they have no colour, no emotion.
The last line of the poem is again ‘but nothing happens’. The reader would like to think the men being buried are going to Heaven, when perhaps they are simply dying, going nowhere. This shows the real horror of war. The fact that after all this suffering they have had to endure, after all the psychological trauma and cold they have suffered, there is no reward, no justice. Most of all, the ending of ‘Exposure’ confirms the theme of the futility of war; the men being buried died from hypothermia; they sat in a trench and froze to death.
This was a waste of life, as they did not even die in battle, which is futile in itself. The ending of ‘Spring Offensive’ also highlights the futility of war and suggests that the survivors should be ashamed of what they have done to survive. When the soldiers ‘Enter hell’ they are, in fact, entering battle. This quote denotes the Christian belief. Throughout the poem Owen has slammed the thought of a real God and put across his fading belief in a God. In fact, this quote shows than man has created a ‘hell on earth’.
Owen also slams the ‘immemorial shames’ of the survivors; he believes they should be ashamed of what they have done to stay alive. The quote suggests we should not have respect for the survivors because what they have done is shocking and ‘immemorial’. The use of syntax, ‘why speak not’, is powerful because it adds emphasis on ‘not’ and the fact the survivors do not really care about their dead comrades; their ‘comrades who went under’. ‘Under’ is death but death is an infinite space because, according to Owen, there is no Heaven.
Also, the fact they do not speak of their comrades shows that the soldiers know that Heaven/Hell is not real, which is more shameful as they do not want to sacrifice their lives like their colleagues because they know there is nothing after life. Throughout all of ‘Spring Offensive’ and, perhaps most significantly, the last stanza it shows that the futility of war is perhaps the most poignant horror of war; there is no reward/Heaven for their sacrifice of life.
Therefore, in conclusion, in both ‘Spring Offensive’ and ‘Exposure’ Owen successfully puts across his ideas that war is futile and there is no point to it; he does this with a terrific use of metaphors in which he can show the reader just how pointless war truly is. Owen also, perhaps controversially, highlights his fading belief in a Christian God and cannot see how if there really was a ‘God’ that he could let war take place to start with that would lead to thousands of deaths.
He also views the survivors of the war to be outrageous in that they are willing to ‘morn’ their own men dying but do not hesitate to pull the trigger without remorse on their enemy when in battle; in doing this Owen shows another point that was is universal and that if you are to morn your own dead then you must do this with the enemy you have just killed, whereas in the poems the survivors appear to show no remorse and perhaps enjoy the killing.
Owen combines all the beliefs that he holds and creates poems that show the true feelings and ideas of the men in the war, of which was not told to people back home at the time, and he completely dismisses the idea that the dead would go to a ‘Heaven’ or ‘Hell’ after they die and views this as a consolatory myth made up to make people feel better when those they knew died.