Dulce Et Decorum Est

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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.com, 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-...
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