Analysis: Dulce Et Decorum and Catch 22

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“Dulce et Decorum Est” Analysis

Wilfred Owen channels his experiences from World War I in his poem, “Dulce et Decorum Est.” The interesting title appears once more at the poem’s end in a full phrase: “Dulce et decorum est/Pro patria mori,” meaning, “it is sweet and honorable to die for one’s country.” The rest of the poem ironically undermines this phrase, exposing the horrors of war to show that is it far from sweet to die for one’s country. Utilizing heavy imagery, Owen easily conveys abomination of war. Once-youthful soldiers now “bent double” and “limped on, blood shod” with “vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues.” Owen’s imagistic language has readers picturing a soldier’s body breaking down entirely, a depiction that is neither sweet nor honorable. Owen also employs various similes to portray a clear description of the soldiers. These young men are tired and overburdened, “like old beggars under sacks,” and have lost their vigor and health, as they are now “coughing like old hags.” Repetition, such as “Gas! Gas!” and the word “drowning,” enforced the urgency of the soldiers and the impressions made from a prolonged death. There is also an a-b-a-b rhyme scheme and use of iambic pentameter, which sets a beat for the poem and helps the read move along the graphic lines regarding a chemist’s war.

The poem condemns those who glorify war and tempt young men into enlisting with hopes of triumph. These men enter war without knowledge of its ramifications, nor do they truly recover from what was experienced. Witnessing the gruesome deaths of comrades by gas would leave one with “smothering dreams” of the “white eyes writhing in his [their] face[s].” Owen successfully exposes and denounces those, particularly the State, for promoting the “old Lie: Dulce et decorum est/Pro patria mori,” for war brings nothing but horror and wastes the lives of innocent young men.

John Yossarian, from Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, would absolutely agree with Owen’s take on the...
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