Interpretations

Word cloud of keywords and phrases from the poem Exposure

Interpreting and analysing a poem is not necessarily a matter of finding the right answer.

Poems are complex creations and are open to many different interpretations. Your interpretation is as valid as anyone else's - as long as you can back it up with suitable evidence from the text.

Remember to avoid simply identifying what techniques or approaches poets use. Aim to show an understanding of how form, language and structure create meanings and effects.

Below are some differing interpretations of the poem. How would you interpret the poem?

Examples

Interpretation of the line: ‘Our brains ache'

InterpretationReason for interpretation
The soldiers are in physical pain.The guns are so noisy and the wind is so cold that it has given the soldiers severe headaches.
The soldiers are developing psychological problems.The noise and terror of the war has caused a mental illness known as ‘shell shock’ or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Interpretation of the line: 'We cringe in holes'

InterpretationReason for interpretation
The poet makes us think that the soldiers are like frightened animals.The words ‘cringe’ and ‘holes’ remind the reader of how a small scared animal might behave and where it might live.
The poet reminds the reader that the soldiers are just ordinary men.The reader is made to think how they would behave in the same circumstances. Would we be brave and noble or terrified?

Interpretation of the line: '…on us the doors are closed'

InterpretationReason for interpretation
The soldiers are thinking back to happier times.The soldiers imagine being at home inside where it is warm. With the door closed, they can shut out the winter weather.
The soldiers are thinking ahead to what lies in store for them.The soldiers cannot get back to their homes. That particular door is shut to them forever and they will almost certainly die in battle.