Dulce et Decorum Est

Length: 620 words

Wilfred Owen deals with the horror of war in his eloquent poem “Dulce et Decorum Est”. The poem is written with a bitter tone to describe men before and through an attack that happened during the First World War. The theme of the poem, as the title is an antithesis of, is it is no “fine and fitting thing to die for one’s country. Owen has created a different atmosphere in each verse, creating a picture that is certainly not glorious; the point the author uses this poem to prove. Owen has used the first verse to create a scene of despair “deaf even to the hoots”.

He has used enjambment to create a conversational tone, but each phrase strikes the reader while being part of a list to reinforce how many injuries there were. It suggests that the soldiers are elderly, giving up and barely alive “old beggars under sacks” and “coughing like hags”. Owen has created a slow pace in the first verse using long sentences and figurative language “Knock-kneed, coughing like hags”. The word choice “asleep”, “lame” and blind also gives connotations of old men, slowly dying. This shows the author’s skill; he creates images that he can later shatter.

Owen had cleverly caused me to forget that these men are young and should be in good health. The second verse contrasts well with the first, the author has cleverly built a lively, fast-moving scene. Minor sentences “Gas! Gas! ” quickly readjusts the pace. Repeated present participle endings have been used to emphasise the feeling of haste. The use of “boys” in the first line quickly shows the reader that it is youths being described in this poem, another transformation from the first verse, which suggests otherwise. Again, the word choice is of importance, unusual words like “ecstasy” have been carefully chosen to suggest excitement.

The word “drowning” gives connotations of someone drowning in the sea, gasping as they are dragged down to their death. The last three lines of the verse touched me and gave vivid images with their detailed descriptions. The informality of the language “yelled” is used by Owen to reach out to the reader. The third verse has another change of atmosphere, which Owen uses to show the true meaning and horror of war. He uses onomatopoeia, “gargling”, a word that has vivid imagery and suggests the severity of the injuries sustained by the soldiers.

The alliterative words “froth-corrupted” evoke graphic images, which could make any reader shudder. During the third verse the author addresses the reader, “If you could hear”, to create intimacy and bring to life the horror of war. The two lines which end the poem are possibly the most important; they emphasize the theme of the poem, it is not glorious to die for your country. The theme is apparent throughout the poem, there are no positives aspects of war mentioned in it. Owen has used imagery and structure to create a negative and graphic picture of war, this ties in perfectly with the theme.

It is clear that Owen strongly objects to war and uses this poem to circulate his message, that is why he made the last two lines particularly blunt “The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori”. There is a capital letter at the beginning of the word “Lie” to emphasize his point. Owen has used his poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” to convey a message about war, it is no fine and fitting thing to die for one’s country. To do this effectively he used figurative language, enjambment, informal language and carefully controlled the tone. The poem was effectively written, causing the reader to be shocked by the graphic images and word choice.

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