From the earliest records of history, accounts of war have been portrayed as valiant acts of heroism. Children and adults alike have gathered together to hear tales of war and its glory. From the stories of Alexander the Great to recent-day movies like Saving Private Ryan, war has been praised and exalted with words such as bravery, honor, and freedom. However, Wilfred Owen's poem "Dulce et Decorum Est" shows the ugly, horrible side of fighting. By use of gripping words and vivid descriptions, Owen paints incredible pictures of what World War I was really like. He tears away the glory and drama and reveals the real essence of fighting: fear, torture, and death. No longer are we left with good feelings and pretty phrases like "Liberty and justice for all!" Instead, our hearts grieve over what these soldiers had to suffer through. Every line of the poem rebuts the Roman poet Horace's quotation: "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori--It is sweet and becoming to die for one's country." The poem employs three different devices that work together to refute the belief that war is heroic and glorious: the speaker's descriptions, his similes, and his memories.
First, the narrator's descriptions are clear and effective, leaving no dispute about what the soldiers had to endure with trenches and mustard gas. The poem does not use vague descriptions such as "It was terrible and horrible." Instead, the fifth and sixth lines read: "Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots / But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind." Right away, the reader can almost see the weary soldiers heading "towards [their] distant rest." They are so weary that some are sleeping while...
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...ys will be a terrible, terrible thing.
In conclusion, "Dulce et Decorum Est" is a magnificent tapestry of poetry. By the speaker's descriptions, similes, and memories, Owen weaves reality and memories together to create a masterpiece. Through the speaker, Owen seems to express his grief over those who have died fighting. He sees no glory in men dying horrible deaths from mustard gas, writhing with pain and agony. No, he does not feel that it is sweet or becoming to die for one's country. His opinion is expressed throughout the whole poem. Yet, his poem is not one of beauty. It has no pleasant words or pleasing sounds; it does not bring good feelings or happy smiles. But it is one of truth, the truth about war.
Owen, Wilfred. “Dulce Et Docorum Est.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M. H. Abrams. New York: Norton & Company, 2000.
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