Dulce et Decorum Est as Condemnation

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In several of his poems, Wilfred Owen tells of vicious memories returning to him in dreams, convicting and horrifying. Dulce et Decorum Est is certainly one of those, perhaps even the most powerful of all of them. His use of imagery paints an ugly picture of death, mutilation, and suffering in the service of country, conjuring feelings of revulsion and desolation. These feelings are further accentuated by use of poetic structure, bracing an already strong presence. But Dulce et Decorum Est isn’t simply a tale of horror. Owen is personally condemning the exaltation of the death suffered on the battlefield, even in service of one's homeland.
Owen’s most recognized works were written in a span of 15 months while he was in the army, where at times he fought on the front line. Dulce et Decorum Est specifically was written during his stay at Craiglockhart Hospital, October 1917 (Bloom). As a witness to World War I’s style of warfare, his credibility is already embedded into the poem, not only in the scenes depicted, but also in the voice of the speaker. He’s not protesting war as a human function, or the military as an institution, but expressing his loathsome feelings for the embellishment and deception that leads many young men to the battlefield seeking honor or glory.
This poem, with its distinctive strength and voice, may not have even come to be if Owen hadn’t met the poet Siegfried Sassoon at Craiglockhart Hospital. This encounter would directly influence the rest of Owen’s writings. Prior to writing Dulce et Decorum Est, Owen’s work had much more of a Romantic sentimentality. It was with Sassoon’s reaction to and criticism of these works coupled with his own hard-edged realist style that swayed Owen in the direction that woul...

... middle of paper ... witness of atrocity and bleak ugliness stretched to the limit desperation would allow, their enthusiasm would be forgotten, shameful in fact. War is a game of sobriety, a thing to celebrate when finished, not a celebration itself. There is no more Romance in war, and no more Romance in Owen’s poems.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold, ed. "'Dulce et Decorum Est'." Poets of World War I - Part One, Bloom's Major Poets.
Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishing, 2001. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://0- (accessed August 10, 2009). Owen, William “Dulce et Decorum Est.” Meyer, Michael. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. 10th ed. Boston: Bedford of St. Martin’s, 2013. Print.
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