‘Futility’ literary means uselessness, that which is utterly fruitless. The soldier-poet Wilfred Owen has used his title Futility in this very sense, of course about the futility of the sun’s labour and effort to enliven and activate the human world.
In his poem, Futility Wilfred Owen exhibits a poignant scene, quite usual on the front of war. This is the sad and untimely death of a young prospective soldier on the front under the cruel blow of war. He finds before him one of his comrades lying dead and stiff and remembers how he was awakened every day in his village home or on the battlefield of France by the kind rays of the sun. The sun shines today as usual with its rays, touching the dead-body of the young soldier, but it is powerless to make him alive and active again.
This hard truth makes the poet sadly conscious of the grim reality of the man-made war that is devastating. The poet points out, in a sad but realistic way, the utter uselessness of the entire creative process of the universe, under the violent impact of the man-made war. War suspends totally all that makes the world living and lively. It puts to an untimely end the very life of man, so valuable and so dearly achieved. All the creative and stimulative forces of Nature, including the mighty sun itself, stand paralysed and pathetically helpless against the cruel massacre of the man-made war.
Owen, thus, brings out the utter silliness of all labour and inspiration to make and activate life. Whatever may be the sources and inspirations of life, war cares not for this and ruthlessly rolls on, turning everything barren and futile. The last two lines of the poem sharply bring out the tragic irony of the war-mongering world.
O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?
Indeed, Owen’s poem is a glaring demonstration of the complete futility of all creative and inspiring processes of life and activity in the face of the cruel and dreadful effects of war. In this context, the poem seems to have been most rightly titled Futility.
Also read: Appropriateness of the title of the poem “Strange Meeting”