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The poem is one of the most powerful ways to convey an idea or opinion. Through vivid imagery and compelling metaphors, the poem gives the reader the exact feeling the author wanted. The poem "Dulce et Decorum Est," an anti-war poem by Wilfred Owen, makes great use of these devices. This poem is very effective because of its excellent manipulation of the mechanical and emotional parts of poetry. Owen's use of exact diction and vivid figurative language emphasizes his point, showing that war is terrible and devastating. Furthermore, the utilization of extremely graphic imagery adds even more to his argument. Through the effective use of all three of these tools, this poem conveys a strong meaning and persuasive argument.
The poem's use of excellent diction helps to more clearly define what the author is saying. Words like "guttering", "choking", and "drowning" not only show how the man is suffering, but that he is in terrible pain that no human being should endure. Other words like writhing and froth-corrupted say precisely how the man is being tormented. Moreover, the phrase "blood shod" shows how the troops have been on their feet for days, never resting. Also, the fact that the gassed man was "flung" into the wagon reveals the urgency and occupation with fighting. The only thing they can do is toss him into a wagon. The fact one word can add to the meaning so much shows how the diction of this poem adds greatly to its effectiveness.
Likewise, the use of figurative language in this poem also helps to emphasize the points that are being made. As Perrine says, people use metaphors because they say "...what we want to say more vividly and forcefully..." Owen capitalizes greatly on this by using strong metaphors and similes. Right off in the first line, he describes the troops as being "like old beggars under sacks." This not only says that they are tired, but that they are so tired they have been brought down to the level of beggars who have not slept in a bed for weeks on end. Owen also compares the victim's face to the devil, seeming corrupted and baneful. A metaphor even more effective is one that compares "...vile, incurable sores..." with the memories of the troops. It not only tells the reader how the troops will never forget the experience, but also how they are frightening tales, ones that will the troops will never be able to tell without remembering the extremely painful experience.
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The most important means of developing the effectiveness of the poem is the graphic imagery. They evoke such emotions so as to cause people to become sick. The images can draw such pictures that no other poetic means can, such as in line twenty-two: "Come gargling from the froth corrupted lungs." This can be disturbing to think about. It shows troops being brutally slaughtered very vividly, evoking images in the reader's mind. In the beginning of the poem the troops were portrayed as "drunk with fatigue." With this you can almost imagine large numbers of people dragging their boots through the mud, tripping over their own shadow. Later in the poem when the gas was dropped, it painted a psychological image that would disturb the mind. The troops were torn out of their nightmarish walk and surrounded by gas bombs. How everyone, in "an ecstasy of fumbling" was forced to run out into the mist, unaware of their fate. Anyone wanting to fight in a war would become nervous at the image of himself running out into a blood bath. The graphic images displayed here are profoundly affecting and can never be forgotten.
The poem ties it all together in the last few lines. In Latin, the phrase "Dulce et decorum est pro partria mori" means: "It is sweet and becoming to die for one's country." Owen calls this a lie by using good diction, vivid comparisons, and graphic images to have the reader feel disgusted at what war is capable of. This poem is extremely effective as an anti-war poem, making war seem absolutely horrid and revolting, just as the author wanted it to.