Dulce et Decorum Est

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Dulce et Decorum Est

In Wilfred Owen’s poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” the speaker’s argument against whether there is true honor in dieing for ones country in World War I contradicts the old Latin saying, Dulce et Decorum Est, which translated means, “it is sweet and honorable to die for the fatherland”; which is exemplified through Owen’s use of title, diction, metaphor and simile, imagery, and structure throughout the entirety of the poem.

The first device used by Owen in the poem is without a doubt the title, in which he uses to establish the opposing side of the argument in the poem. The poem is titled, “Dulce et Decorum Est”, which comes from Horace’s Odes, book three, line 13, and translated into English to mean: “It is sweet and honorable to die for the fatherland”. With this title it would seem as if the Owen himself condones the patriotic propaganda that resulted in the deaths of young men in World War I tallying upward of hundreds of thousands. However, the contents of the poem itself with in fact contradict the title, and the speaker will actually refuse to accept the Latin saying, and actually detest the patriotic propaganda. Through Owen’s use of metaphors and similes the argument the speaker is making within the poem becomes more apparent.

The similes and metaphors used by Owen illustrate very negative war scenes throughout the poem, depicting extreme suffering of young men fighting during World War I. The first simile used by Owen describes the soldiers as “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks”, giving them sickly, wounded, and exhausted attributes from battle and lack of rest (1). Next, the soldiers are described as “Knock-kneed, coughing like hags”, which once again portrays these young men as sick...

... middle of paper ... is when the speaker’s argument changes, and he begins to resent the war and the saying, “Dulce et Decorum Est”, as he is recalling the sight of the soldier dieing from the gas plunging at him. The fourth and final stanza makes the speaker’s argument very clear that it is not sweet and honorable to fight and die for the fatherland. The structure of the poem allows the speaker to relay his experience and finish by summing up his argument by saying if anyone else saw what he saw, then “My friend, you would not tell with such high zest / To children ardent for some desperate glory, / The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est” (25-27). The speaker blatantly establishes his argument, the saying Dulce et decorum est is simply patriotic propaganda to get young innocent men to fight for the fatherland, or in other words, a despicable lie that sends innocent youth to their graves.
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