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Wilfred Owen aimed to convey 'the pity of war' in his poetry. How does he try to do this in 'Dulce Decorum Est'?

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Introduction

Wilfred Owen aimed to convey 'the pity of war' in his poetry. How does he try to do this in 'Dulce Decorum Est'? 'Dulce Decorum Est' is a poem written in 1917 by British poet, World War I Soldier, and holder of a Military Cross, Wilfred Owen. He writes from first hand experience and describes the war as a significant tragedy with such realism and strong prevalent imagery to remind us all of the public horrors in the First World War. By juxtaposing the perception of a devastating war, verses the idea of heroic fighting, he successfully illustrates the poem's ultimate irony - "Dulce Et Decorum Est, Pro Patria Mori," or "The old Lie, it is a sweet and fitting thing to die for your country." The poet's consistent use of imagery as well as the way he breaks away from the conventional poetic form and the delicate language prevalent in the poetry of his time is the roots of his success in presenting his society with the brutality and devastation of the 'pity of war.' By using graphic descriptions and direct diction, the tone of the poem is expressed lucidly. Adjectives and verbs that convey filth, fear, and pain, are used, like: "cursed through sludge" and "guttering, choking, drowning." By using such straightforward and dynamic verbs and the triple-three technique, the readers are hit with shock at the horrific reality he is presenting, and forces them to remember the frightening scenes. ...read more.

Middle

Next, he uses alliteration to emphasize certain verbs, which adds to the insistent tone of the poem, allowing the reader to remember the disheartening descriptions better, like "Knock-kneed", and "watch the white eyes writhing." He also uses repetition to emphasize certain feelings. "All went lame, all blind," the word "all" stresses on the sense of hopelessness, as the soldiers have lost their senses. The author then uses punctuation and capital letters to create an impression of panic and importance, "Gas! Gas! Quick boys!" and "the old Lie." Another metaphor he uses is in the second stanza where he refers to the green sea as a poison gas. "As under a green sea, I saw him drowning," "In all my dreams, before my helpless sight," "plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning." This metaphor is extremely effective as he connects his war experience with other aspects of human suffering, making it easier for those who have never experienced war, to recognize the same agony. For example, the choking man is sympathized by readers, as Owen describes the same feeling that occurs when submerged under water with water taken into lungs. Owen reinforces his metaphor by rhyming "drowning" with itself, and highlights on the soldier's impotence. Next, Wilfred Owen uses a number of similes to support his theme and creates contrast through the comparison of the soldier's mental and physical status. ...read more.

Conclusion

Rhythm is further broken up as the level of suspense rises in the second stanza when one soldier fails to put his gas mask on in time. "Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! - An ecstasy of fumbling," this pronounced break of 11 syllables in the metric structure acts to convey a sense of panic, helplessness, and chaos. In the last line, Owen abandons the iambic pentameter again, more so here than he does anywhere else. It's almost as though he gives up, and loses all hope. This brings prepotency to the last line - the satiation that evolves from recalling the haunting scene of war. Through burning, and drowning, Owen creates terrifying deaths, which are neither glorious nor noble, and communicates to the reader that war is brutal and far from "sweet and fitting." Owen further exposes this theme by incorporating contrast in these depicted ideals of soldiers, verses the reality of what they experience behind the facade of patriotic marching using imagery. He also uses many other literary devices, like alliteration, hyperboles, and punctuation to capture his depiction of the trepidations that come with war. The direct diction displayed in his imagery, similes, and metaphors, also prove essential devices as Owen successfully negates the idea of "Dulce et docrum est, Pro patria mori," leaving the reader shocked, and more able to appreciate the irony between the truth of what happens in the trenches and the Lie that is being circulated back home. ...read more.

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