Literary Analysis: Deontology and the Antiwar Poetry of Wilfred Owen

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Literary analysis: Deontology and the antiwar poetry of Wilfred Owen

"And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime/Dim through the misty panes and thick green light/As under a green sea, I saw him drowning."(Owen 12-14). In his poem "Dulce et Decorum Est" Wilfred Owen describes a scene he witnessed in the first world war. After writing about what he had seen, he then states his belief, that Horace's quotation (which is also the name of the poem) is untrue, and if even the most ardent hawk would have seen what Owen and his comrades had seen, they would gladly become a dove. The poem tries to tell the reader that war causes unneeded deaths and suffering. Unlike Horace, Owen sees nothing sweet or proper about dying. When distilled to its essence, the poem is one that is trying to gather sympathy from the apathetic and stifle the enthusiasm of people who may want to join the army. His poem tries to debunk arguments for war by eliminating all the rhetoric and using his own experience, he uses several techniques to "cut through" all of the propaganda and get to the concrete and factual. By reading over the poem and analyzing the overall sentiment and the time period during its composition, it is more than reasonable to claim Owen's poem attacks utilitarianism and nationalism while it supports deontological thinking. Firstly, the content and structure support the claim that he is opposed to warfare and concerned with the fate of a single man equally as much as he is concerned with the fate of nations. The story is not long or complicated, the writing style is not didactic, except at the end of the poem. The opening verses depict tired men who are so exhausted they even ignore the sounds around them, which is unusual behavior for a soldier, because failing to pay attention can cost a soldier his life. This points to an extreme form of physical fatigue and complete apathy. There is a transition when an officer shouts "GAS! GAS! Quick boys!"(Owen 9). This is when things...
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