The Old Truth: "Dulce Et Decorum Est"

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The Old Truth: "Dulce Et Decorum Est"

By | Jan. 2006
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In the poem "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen, an appalling picture combined with its gruesome reality is painted through the use of simile and metaphor which brings out its theme in full relief. Rather than softening and humanizing the atrocity of the war by composing a poetry that flows elegantly and beautifully, Owen hurls the pain into the reader's face. Owen starts his poem by directly addressing his point and gives a metaphor of soldiers as "old beggars under the sack" and "hags" (1-2) which invokes images of weary soldiers in the battle. It also suggests the soldiers being scared of what is ahead of them. By Owen's painfully direct language, the reader becomes aware of the ruthlessness of the war. We find that these young men who were lured under the falsifying glorious images of the war are barely awake from lack of sleep, cannot even walk straight as their blood-caked feet try to negotiate the mud and are physically and mentally crushed. Owen's imagery sets up ripples of meaning beyond the literal and exploits ambiguity. Owen compares a soldier succumbing to a poison gas to drowning by employing a powerful underwater metaphor. A soldier falls into "an ecstasy of fumbling" (9) as he is trying to find his gas helmet; `ecstasy' seems a strange word until we realize that in a medical sense, it means a morbid state of nerves in which the mind is occupied solely with one idea. Owen introduces himself into the action through witnessing his comrade dying in agony who is "floundering like a man in fire" (14) which takes on much more gruesome implications rather than simply drowning. In the third stanza, Owen looks back from a new perspective in the light of a recurring nightmare and even though we have not participated in the war, we are also reminded of these horrifying images that still haunt us. He combines gritty realism with an aching sense of compassion which succeeds in creating a lasting and disturbing impression on the reader by its exceptionally...