Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen Q1) Explain the setting of the poem and the overall subject matter. The setting for this poem is in the battlefields of the First World War. Seeing through the “misty panes and thick green light”, line 13, a world swiftly turned inside-out by the dropping of gas shells, being dragged through terrors that seem too dreadful to be real, and too real to be anything but a first-hand experience. Many patriotic people at this time believed that going to war was an honor, even children aged around 15 lied about being 17 years old to join up to fight the war.
However that was not the case in this poem, dying for your country seems a lot less worthwhile than the hyped-up idea implied by the old patriots of war. (Shmoop. com, Accessed 2013) Strategically enticing his readers through the frightening reality of life in a war zone, Owen turns patriotic eagerness into a kind of deadly life force. The people at home just cannot understand how horrible life on the front-line actually is. These soldiers of war cannot remember why they are fighting. Everyone, it appears, is lost in a haze of war or in the useless ideals that it is an honor sacrificing youth at the altar of national glory.
The theme of the poem, is that propaganda used during the war was not fair, nor was it correct, and lied to young men about how joining the war would bring them honour, and praise. (warpoetry. co. uk, Accessed 2013) Author Wilfred Owen was implying that this was not the case; it did in fact bring corruption to young men, and took away all innocence left in them, “incurable sores on innocent tongues”. “My helpless sight, he plunges at me, guttering, choking, and drowning. ” This shows how the war was not all about honour for your country; it was about death.
Wilfred Owen was a conscientious objector, who never believed in war. Owen believed he had no right to protest against war, if he had never fought in it. Owen wrote his anti-war poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” as a protest against war, particularly a poem by Jessie Pope, declaring that it is sweet and honourable to die for your country. Owen denounces this lie. In the words of the great Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a seasoned and experienced general, who fought in many long hard battles, ‘peace at home peace in the world’, is an honourable noble ideal to aspire to. (Shmoop. om, Accessed 2013) Q2) Go through the poem section by section interpreting the meaning and commenting on the effectiveness of the poetic language used. All exceptional poetry displays a good use of figurative language, imagery, and expression. Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” is a powerful antiwar poem which takes place on a battlefield during World War I. Through dramatic use of imagery, metaphors, and diction, he clearly states his theme that war is terrible and horrific as well as deglamorising the honour supposedly achieved by the youth of the time joining the fight. wilfredowen. org, Accessed 2013) The use of compelling figurative language helps to reveal the reality of war. In the first line, “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,” shows us that the troops are so tired that they can be compared to old beggars. Another great use of simile, “His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,” line 20, suggests that his face is probably covered with blood which is the colour symbolizing the devil. A very powerful metaphor is the comparison of painful experiences of the troops to “vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues. Line 24. This metaphor emphasizes that the troops will never forget these horrific experiences. As you can see, Owen has used figurative language so effectively that the reader gets drawn into the poem. (warpoetry. co. uk, Accessed 2013) The images drawn in this poem are so graphic that it could make readers feel sick. For example, in these lines: “If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood- Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs- Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud,” lines 21 to 23, shows us that so many men were brutally killed during this war.
Also, when the gas bomb was dropped, “someone still yelling out and stumbling- and flound’ring like a man in fire or lime… – he plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. ” Lines 11,12 and 16. These compelling lines indicate that men drowned helplessly in the toxic gasses. These graphic images are very disturbing but play a very effective role in the development of the poem. (bl. uk, Accessed 2013) Another tool in developing the effectiveness of the poem is the excellent use of diction. The word “blood-shod” explains how the troops have been on their feet for days without rest.
Also, words like “guttering”, “choking”, and “drowning” shows us that the troops are suffering in extreme pain and misery. If you haven’t noticed, most of these words are examples of cacophony, which are words with harsh and discordant sounds. As this poem is about how harsh and terrible war is, Owen’s use of cacophony is very effective in generating the tone of the poem. (Shmoop. com, Accessed 2013) Owen uses good comparison, graphic imagery, and exceptional articulation to persuade the reader that war is absolutely terrible and horrific. Owen also incorporates a unique use of rhyme and rhythm.
It is written in iambic pentameter with a rhyme scheme of ABAB. This shows the cleverness of Owen’s style of writing. It is extremely difficult to write such excellent rhyming poem. However Owen is naturally talented in choosing the right choice of language as is plain to see in this poem. ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ is extremely effective in showing the gruesome, heartless, and horrifying effects of war. Maybe if Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, or any other pro-war leaders read this poem then maybe they would have had some sympathy for their troops and would have made an effort to put an end to war. wilfredowen. org, Accessed 2013) Q3) Explain the main theme of the poem including the social and historical context. There are 4 main themes to ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ which are warfare, suffering, patriotism and versions of reality. As Owen describes, war becomes a never-ending nightmare of unexpected gas attacks and muddy trenches. Intriguingly, with the new-fangled technology of WWI, there doesn’t even need to be a real enemy present to create devastation and destruction. Set in the haze of a gas attack, this poem explores the intense gony of a world gone to a sudden extreme of insanity, and the unfortunate men who have to struggle through it. The theme of suffering is portrayed by the physical pain and psychological trauma blur in this searing description of a World War I battleground. Caught in the memory of a gas-attack, Owen oscillates between the pain of the pas being the actual experience of battle, and the pain of the present, as he can’t get the image of his dying comrade out of his head. As Owen argues, war is so painful that it becomes surreal. (warpoetry. co. uk, Accessed 2013)
The pretrial of patriotism, dying for your country or in fact even fighting for your country, seems a lot less worthwhile than the trumped-up cliche of old patriotic battle tales imply. Strategically drawing the reader through the frightening reality of life in a battle zone, Owen turns patriotic honor into a kind of deadly life force. The people at home just cannot understand how horrible life on the front line actually is. The soldiers in war cannot even remember why they are fighting. “Dulce et Decorum Est” creates a sharp and deeply ironic line between the civilians who prop up war efforts and the men who fight their battles.
As Owen suggests, there is almost no way for either group to understand the other. Only those who have experienced the horror of battle can understand the trauma of losing a fellow soldier. Ironically, however, these soldiers don’t have the ability to communicate fully with those at home who could bring the war to an end – the people who reiterate old slogans about honor, duty, and patriotism without ever having to experience the terror of battle themselves. The very word “war” begins to mean two very different things for the two populations in this poem. Tragically, these views seem increasingly irreconcilable. Shmoop. com, Accessed 2013) Q4) Give your own response to the poem. Owen has an effective use of language, metaphors, similes, register, mode of address, rhythm and rhyme to illustrate a war scene that is easy to imagine. Dulce et Decorum est: it is a sweet and honourable thing. The title of the poem first suggested that a poem of brave glory and the glamour of war; however, as the poem unravels, the words can become frightening. There are few WW1 poems that can match the ferocity of Owen’s words. The first paragraph drew me in and I can literally feel the suffering of the soldiers.
Line one of paragraph two uses an interesting word choice “An ecstasy of fumbling” it’s as if Owen was in such a state he saw his surroundings in slow motion. He describes one man, “As under a green sea, I saw him drowning, in line 6 paragraph two. ” It is hard to imagine being in such an experience as that and Owen’s words paint vivid pictures. There is a substantial amount of bitterness and irony in the final lines of the poem, ‘The old lie: Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori,’ line 11 paragraph, it is a sweet and honourable thing to die for ones country.
Bibliography BL. (2009) Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, Available at: http://www. bl. uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/englit/owen/index. html (Accessed March 2013) Shmoop. (2013) Dulce Et Decorum Est, Available at: http://www. shmoop. com/dulce-et-decorum-est/ (Accessed March 2013) War Poetry. (2011) Dulce Et Decorum Est, Available at: http://www. warpoetry. co. uk/owen1. html (Accessed March 2013) Wilfred Owen. (2000) Dulce Et Decorum Est, Available at: http://www. wilfredowen. org. uk/poetry/dulce-et-decorum-est (Accessed March 2013)