Dulce et Decorum Est and All Quiet On The Western Front
In this essay, I will be trying to explain the diverse ways in which the poem, “Dulce et Decorum Est”, written by Wilfred Owen, the film All Quiet On The Western Front, made from a book which became a world best seller by Erich Maria Remarque and the television show, “Good byeee” ( Blackadder) show the same, negative view towards war. I will demonstrate the different ways in which the 3 Medias attempt to reveal conditions in the trenches and the way the morale and attitudes of soldiers change while on the front line.
I will then choose one of the 3 and explain why I thought was the most successful at showing a negative observation trench life and the war itself. Blackadder Goes Forth, Episode 6 – “Goodbyeee” was written by Ben Elton and Richard Curtis in the 1980s. It was written mainly about just before the Somme offensive (Big push) in July 1916. This comedy which has a very cruel ending was written as a comedy, I think to differ to other war illustrations. It graphically shows the bad conditions in the trenches (such as low rations of food such as coffee) and the unfair treatment of soldiers.
An example of this is when Captain Darling is ushered into fighting even thought he objects to it). The poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” was written by Wilfred Owen, a soldier of the British Army who fought on the Western Front which makes it an extremely reliable eye witness account of the terrible conditions suffered by every soldier. He wrote the poem while on convalescent leave in Edinburgh in a war hospital. I deem he wrote it to describe to people what conditions and life in the trenches was really like. He wanted to demonstrate to them that war wasn’t as glorious and glamorous as most of the public believed.
He uses the poem to criticise patriotic government propaganda, the “Old lie”. He wrote it to make people think twice before joining the army for what he describes it, “desperate glory”. All Quiet on the Western Front was originally written by Erich Maria Remarque. It was first published in 1929. It is a classic anti – war book which became so well know that it was turned into a film. It was written to show the changes in attitude and feeling by soldiers towards the war as it rolled along. In the poem “Dulce et Decorum Est”, Wilfred Owen is describing what had become a frequent thing to a soldier during his stay in the trenches, a gas attack.
The British army has just attacked and the Germans have counterattacked with a terrible gas attack. 1 of Owens’s comrades breathes the gas in and is subsequently taken out to a hospital where he later dies. 3 good examples of the bad conditions which faced soldier’s everyday can be found in the poem. First is the physical challenge which tested everyday. “All went lame, all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots. ” This was a very accurate description as many soldiers did become extremely drained after spending even a short time at the front line and due to enemy shelling many did become hard of hearing, in some cases deaf.
Another of the terrible conditions which soldiers had to face the terrain was actually the terrain on which they walked, ate and often slept on, mud. This terrain made life extremely difficult for soldiers, in some cases it became a death trap when men fell in holes filled with mud and drowned. “We cursed through sludge. ” This quote shows how much men disliked the terrain, not even referring to it as simply mud but as “sludge”. Many men hated mud because it often led to the extremely painful trench foot for which sometimes the best cure was amputation.
But the most terrible of the 3, was an enemy gas attack. 5% of all casualties and 1. 4% of deaths in the British Army were cause by gas shells or gas related attacks. Even the ones, who didn’t suffer the torture of dying due to a gas attack, were scarred for life as many became blind, suffered terrible burns or developed breathing problems. “As under the green sea, I saw him drowning, in all my dreams before my helpless sight. ” This quote describes what sounds like a comrade of Wilfred Owen has inhaled a poisonous gas. Owen uses this to create an image on the mind of the reader, a shocking image of a man suffering horribly, an agony which most of us will never experience.
This helps immensely the task of Wilfred Owen because it really shows the reader and it probably showed the people who were going to enlist how horrible life really was in the Front Line. The poet describes himself as unable to do anything to comfort or try to save the life of his friend “In all my dreams before my helpless sight”. The only thing you could do to save yourself was to put the gas mask on before you inhaled the gas or you would be certain to die or suffer terribly “An ecstasy of fumbling, fitting the clumsy helmets just in time”.
In the comedy, “Goodbye/ Blackadder Goes forth” written by duo Ben Elton and Richard Curtis, Captain Edmund Blackadder who is a sarcastic and somewhat a cowardly character is planning a way out of the forthcoming attack. His aides are the enthusiastic and rather innocent Lieutenant George Colthurst and the naive and inventive Private Baldrick. The plan (Blackadder pretending to have lost the plot) goes awfully wrong and under the command of General Haig (whom Captain Blackadder saved from a Pygmy woman with a sharpened mango) they sadly all die in the attack.
In the comedy, I have found 3 points which describe the bad conditions in the trenches. First is the lack of supplies such as food. The 3 characters are said to have run out of coffee 13 months ago and that indeed the “coffee” they all been drinking has been a lovely mixture off mud, saliva and dandruff. If you wanted a cappuccino then you would ask for “that brown stuff you sprinkle on the top” which Baldrick would have keenly done. 2nd condition highlighted in the comedy, is the lack of activities in the trenches if you weren’t preparing for an attack.
Men needed to do something and there was sometimes nothing to be done. There were cases of men gone mad because of inactivity. “Oh dash and blast all this hanging about, sir! I’m as bored as a pacifist pistol” This quote from Lieutenant George shows how bored he was due to the lack of activity. 3rd point is not a condition but is the actual result of them. Captain Blackadder is desperate to get out of before the “Big push” I think not only due to his cowardice, but also because life in the trenches was so bad that he had enough.
“How could it possibly be worth it? he asks George. This shows how disappointed and miserable he was living in the trenches and the way the actual war had turned out to be. All Quiet on the Western Front, is somewhat different to the other 2 Medias. Because it’s a story, it makes it more useful than the poem and the television comedy which are based around a single event rather than the whole story. The story tells of a young bunch of men sent into the front line after only a few weeks of training, making them much unprepared for what they were about to experience.
Their families and their headmaster expected them to be heroes as soon as they walked out with their army uniforms so there was a great deal of pressure on their young shoulders. Their teacher plays a crucial role in their decision to join the army. He brainwashes them lesson after lesson into thinking what Wilfred Owen would describe as the “old lie”, believing that it was sweet and proper to die for the Fatherland”. He issues them with a sort of blackmail/ ultimatum to which they cannot falter. He tells them that if they join up, he would be proud of them for the rest of his life.
The few who failed him, were forced to join up by the constant abuse and taunts the received from classmates and from Mr Kantorek himself, no one had a choice, the only choice was yes. The film also demonstrates the bad conditions the soldiers had to face. Even thought these were German soldiers, not British like the last 2 Medias; they faced the same problems such as the lack of provisions such as food, ammunition and even shoes in the case of Franz Kemmerich who was dying so he gave his boots to a fellow comrade.
The film shows the bad conditions in the trenches much more clearly than the poem or the comedy. of the problems the soldiers faced was the rats “They have horrible faces, evil-looking, naked-faces and the sight of their long bare tails can make you feel sick. ” Another were the lice which thrived in the filth of the trenches “The beasts are hard, and it gets to be a bore when you are forever pinching them between your nails. ” But I think the most horrible problem a soldier could face was not having to live with these hideous creatures, to then It would gave been losing a fellow comrade because it could leave physiological scars which might never be healed.
As the war went on and the position of the German army became ever more difficult, the people began to realise what was and what had happened. Families had been destroyed as their heroes had been killed or chronically scared, either physically or mentally. The war had wiped out a whole generation and the consequences of defeat for the Germans would be disastrous. The characters in the play no longer sound confident and pro-war as at the beginning, they begging to sound more cynical and more against the war.