«Dulce et decorum est» is a poem written by British poet Wilfred Owen, during World War one, in 1917. The translation of the Latin title is: «It is sweet and proper». The completed sentence is as follows: «It is sweet and proper to die for one's country». This forms, what the writer refers to as, «The old Lie». The poem holds a strong criticism towards the conventional view of war at that written time. I shall now comment briefly on that time's traditional ideas of war and heroism. Further on, I shall have a concise look at some information about the author and his context. Then, I would like to put to light the perception of war introduced by Owen in this poem, and thereby, show how the poem could, in several ways, said to be an attack on traditional ideas of war, warfare and heroism of that day.
By the first decade of the 20th century, the official attitude towards war had been positive. People did not have a realistic view of the war. They did not know much about either the warfare techniques used on the battlefields, or anything about how their soldiers died. News was heavily censured. The war was merely seen as a wonderful opportunity for young men to show their courage. The portrait of a soldier was of a hero, fighting beautifully and honorably for their country. Men who wanted to join the war had to enlist as volunteers. The authorities made it quite difficult for men not to enlist, by the use of propaganda, making war out to be for the honourable men. There were pro-war slogans at every corner, which created a common notion that men who did not enlist were the opposite of the ones who 'couragesly' went to fight. They became cowards in the eyes of society. The men were not only pressured by the authorities, they met pressure from the women as well. One of the aspects of this was the message of the white feather worn by women during the time of war. The white feather bore the question of why the men... [continues]
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