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Wilfred Owen's poem, 'Dulce Et Decorum Est', first published in 1921, reveals the idea that to die for your country is not 'glorious'. It is disturbing, frightening and gruesome.

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Introduction

STEVEN LEECH Wilfred Owen's poem, 'Dulce Et Decorum Est', first published in 1921, reveals the idea that to die for your country is not 'glorious'. It is disturbing, frightening and gruesome. To begin, Owen presents the reader with a horrific picture of soldiers, 'bent double, like old beggars under sacks'. This simile suggests that the men have changed, and that they are barely recognisable as Owen says they are 'old hags'. This suggests that if the men were to return from fighting, they would not fit into society. The soldiers have been fighting in terrible conditions and the reader sees this when Owen writes, 'we cursed through sludge'. Not only can the reader recognise the terrible conditions the soldiers were fighting in, but also the fact that they are 'cursed' which suggests that the reader can feel the pain of the soldiers. The poet also describes the 'haunting flares'. This represents the fact that the memories of the war will return in later life, for all those who survive. ...read more.

Middle

The tone and mood of the poem changes significantly at the beginning of stanza two. The use of exclamation marks and capital letters, emphasises the true sense of panic when a soldier shouts, 'Gas! GAS! Quick, boys'! This shows a contrast of movement to when Owen states that the soldiers 'limped on'. This shows relief, when Owen says they were 'fitting the clumsy helmets just in time'. This highlights the horror and 'ecstasy of fumbling' that someone is still trapped and yelling out for help. In this stanza, there is also a dream like quality, which also becomes a nightmare visualised through distorting 'misty panes of thick, green light'. This gives a sense of the agonising death that soldiers are faced with, 'floundering, drowning, stumbling'. The reader sees the horror directly through Owen's eyes and after seeing this the reader is hopefully persuaded that war is anything but glorious. Owen, in the third stanza recalls how the vision of a 'drowning man' returns to him in his dreams. In this stanza there is the use of iambic metre, but only on the first line. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is the most disturbing and brutal part of the poem. The reader is not spared any of the details 'froth-corrupted lungs... gargling'. Owen states that they 'flung him in the wagon'. This shows that the soldier is already a corpse and other soldiers are hopeless and helpless to assist him. The use of alliteration 'watch the white eyes writhing' emphasises the pain and breathlessness of soldiers. Owen uses a simile 'like a devil sick of sin'. This highlights the extremity of the pain suffered by the soldiers, also the injuries suffered by the soldiers are 'vile incurable sores on innocent tongues'. Owen believes that war is unjust and undignified and very wrong. The final line 'Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori', presents a bitter irony to the reader. Owen talks directly to the reader when he says 'my friend'. This gives the sense that this person has never experienced war. The reader can realise that the young soldiers will never be released from the suffering, which they experience during the war. The appalling picture painted throughout the poem finally undermines the glory of the Latin; Owen believes to die for your country is anything but patriotic and glorious. ...read more.

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