Presentation of Suffering in Dulce et Decorum est and The Sentry

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Sophie Miller        English Literature        Block 5

How does Owen convey the suffering of the soldiers in the Sentry and Dulce et Decorum est?

        In both the poems “The Sentry”, and “Dulce et Decorum est”, Wilfred Owen create a strong impression of the suffering of the soldiers involved, both at the time of the incidents portrayed, and the time lapsed since those incidents.

Dulce et Decorum est tells the story of the death of one of Owen’s men in a gas attack. In the first stanza, the use of hyperbole is a strong technique illustrating the torment of the soldiers. For example, lines such as: “Men marched asleep.” And “All went lame, all blind” are blatant exaggerations, but subsequently convey the overwhelming nature of the soldiers’ exhaustion and pain. Consequently, I feel that the use of such ideas as “Men marched asleep” gives the impression of the soldiers’ psychological detachment from their own bodies – they have been subjected to so much stress and trauma that their minds no longer work in the same way as their bodies. This is a clear symptom of shell shock, and is evident in The Sentry also: “And splashing in the flood, deluging muck – / the sentry’s body; then his rifle”. The selection of the words “The sentry’s body” rather than simply “The sentry” gives the idea that the man’s body fell down the steps first, and that his mind may have followed later, as if he were in a trance, or were particularly panicked.

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        Owen also uses description based on animals: In Dulce et Decorum est, the soldiers are compared with horses: “But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame”. Words such as “den” and “herded” in The Sentry give the idea that the situation is below the most basic standards of civilisation. This shows the inhuman nature of war, and the way that this encourages the soldiers to act as if they are not human.

        Whereas the first stanza of Dulce et Decorum est touches on several different senses: “All went lame, all blind”, “Deaf even to the hoots”, The Sentry centres closely around ...

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*** 4 STARS A well written essay which clearly understands the effects of the techniques used by the poet. There are some perceptive comments which show engagement with the poems and PEA is used throughout the essay.