Wilfred Owen - Dulce et Decorum est

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- Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen was an infantry man during the First World War, this poem is written from first hand experience, his aim was to end the glorification of war. He died a week before the war ended in 1918.

“Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori” translated in to English means it is right and fitting to die for your country. If someone is reading the poem for the first time learns of the English meaning of the title they would see this as a pro-war poem and that it represents the army in a good way. However this assumption could not be further from the truth.

        The opening lines show this, as any illusion about the glory of war is shattered. The description of the appearance of the men, their actions and they way they walk convey the tiredness and physical state that they are in. The soldiers are fed up. They are so tired that even when the flares go off behind them they don't have the energy or even feel like turning around to see them. “Blood-shod” is used to describe the soldiers – we tend to associate the word shod with the treatment of animals. In war people become no more valuable than animals. Owen describes the soldiers of being "Drunk with fatigue" - Owen is saying that the soldiers are so tired that it is as though they are drunk. Owen is also trying to give us the impression that the soldiers are as though they don't know entirely what they are doing. These men are but mere shadows of the bright vibrant people that started fighting the war.

The pace of the poem quickens in the second stanza. The soldiers are awoken by a gas attack. This effectively shatters the mood that Owen has showed to us in the opening stanza. The soldiers are now awoken by the fact that their lives are in extreme danger and they now have to be fully aware of all their surroundings. Some of the language is unique yet conveys the sense of panic very well, “Ecstasy” for example. In their weariness the soldiers appear clumsy in the struggle to put on their helmets. One man fails to get his on in time and Owen describes the man’s demise as: “Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, as under a green sea, I saw him drowning” The green light Owen talks of is the sight through his gas mask. Owen uses a simile saying that the man is drowning in a green sea. The reality of this is that the man is drowning in a sea of his own toxic blood.

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Owen tells us how this memory has stayed with him. The sickening sight of the man lunging at him. Owen seems to have a great fear of the gas attacks when he talks of them. Owen talks of all of the nightmares he has had because of the war and this event in particular. Owen says “In all my dreams before my helpless sight.”

He describes how the man was taken away and how he walked behind and saw his face. There are many horrific adjectives used in the poem portraying the horror and the brutal reality that is war. ...

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