The Ugliness of War in Wilfred Owen's Dulce et Decorum est

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The Ugliness of War in Wilfred Owen's Dulce et Decorum est

Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum est" is seen as a strong expression of the ugliness of war, and "an attack on the idea of war being glorious" (Kerr 48). It transmits an irritating clip, with full animation and in vivid colors, of embittered and battered soldiers marching to their death. It also, cogently presents a nightmarish vision of hell uploading all its demons into the root directory of an impoverished soldier who saw one of his comrades gassed to death.

The images that Owen confected with the skill of a professional craftsman remain grafted in the reader's memory long after the poem is read, echoing its sober message times and times again. The soldier's voice bitterly imploring that patriarchy stop disseminating lies about the glory and sweetness of death in defense of ones country haunts the text. The poem presents this extremely tense experience articulately in 28 lines of well-confected verse. It is this confected eloquence and the well structured articulation of this highly disturbing experience that really betrays the poem's lack of immediacy and artificiality, and makes the poet an accomplice with those he attacks as disseminators of lies. Scrutinizing Owen's poem under the magnifying lens of Longinus' treatise On the Sublime, and Harold Pinter's view on discourse reveals that the poem perches on a detrimental fault line that destabilizes its mainstream readings.

While Owen challenges patriarchy and insinuates at its responsibilities for the horror of the war, he himself maintains, to a great extent, a conventional approach to writing poetry that does not subvert the traditional patriarchal forms of versification. The diction of the poem is delibe...

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...arizes them to him to the extent that they cease to become that terrible after several repeated readings. In fact, in Owen's poem the war is exhausted by its discourse the way, to borrow Jean Baudrillard's expression, "the eyes are exhausted in the gaze and the face is exhausted in the makeup." (76)

Works Cited

Baudrillard, Jean. Seduction. Trans. Brian Singer. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990.

Dorsch, T. S. Classical Literary Criticism. London: Penguin books, 1965.

Kerr, Douglas. Wilfred Owen's Voices: Language and Community. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993.

Owen, Wilfred. Wilfred Owen: Collected Letters. Ed. Harold Owen and John Bell. London: Oxford UP, 1967.

-----. Wilfred Owen: The Complete Poems and Fragments. Ed. John Stallworthy. 2 vols. New York: Norton, 1984.

Hollis, J. R. Harold Pinter: The Poetics of Silence. New York: Macmillan, 1970.
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