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Dulce et Decorum Est

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Dulce et Decorum Est

Wilfred Owen

Owen's poem Dulce et Decorum Est is a passionate expression of outrage

at the horrors of war and of pity for the young soldiers sacrificed in

it.

From the title of this poem people back home would have expected an

understanding poem, helping to overcome their grief at the loss of a

loved one, instead what they got was a poem expressing outrage at the

lies surrounding the ‘Great’ War.

The quote by Horace translates as ‘It is sweet and right to die for

ones’ country’, but the poem is about proving to people at home that

this isn’t a sweet and honourable way to die (if there is any). It

goes through the worst parts of the war and describes them in detail.

The horrors in these descriptions contradict the glorification of the

war

The poem consists of four stanzas, the first describes the soldiers,

the second a gas attack, the third Owen’s nightmares and last an

accusation to the people back home.

Owen’s poems are suffused with the horror of battle, and yet finely

structured and innovative.

The first stanza sets the scene as it describes the conditions the men

fought in and their feelings.

Owen immediately shocks the readers by describing the young soldiers

as ‘bent double’ emphasising their exhaustion and the way they slump

along, deformed by fatigue, I think this is an effective simile

because no one back home will be expecting their proud soldiers

described as beggars. The simile ‘coughing like hags’ was used

because the men who went into battle were relatively young, yet after

battle they looked old and ugly, hence hags. With this one sentence

Owen implies health conditions that no one at home would ever dream

of. Words like Hags, Cursed and Haunting are used as they all have

connotations of evil to emphasise the misery and hardship of the front

lines. Owen chooses his word carefully using ones the readers will

understand to describe processes they can’t, ‘Drunk with fatigue’

(Line 7), comparing the effects of being drunk to being overly tired,

for example the wavering walk, tripping and stumbling. This is

effective because everyone reading would know what it’s like to be

drunk. The ‘tired, outstripped Five-Nines’ being a type of gun, but

also the soldiers being sent from the trenches for some rest and

relaxation. He uses words like We, Our to show that he is part of

this mayhem. He seems almost detached as if he has seen this so

often, that to him it has lost the horror value that we feel.

In the second stanza there is a dramatic change in pace to demonstrate
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