Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘’Dulce et Decorum est’’ was written during his World War One experience. Owen was an officer in the British army, the poem explains how the British public and press comforted themselves in the fact that young men were dying in the war doing the noble and heroic thing the reality however was quite different as Owen so horrifically demonstrates to the reader in the poem. Owen wants to throw the war in the readers face to illustrate how vile and in humane war really was this study will focus on Dulce et Decorum est discussing themes and poetic methods engaged, insights will also be provided into Owen’s underlying purpose in adopting these techniques, as cited by Breen in her introduction to the selected poetry and prose in which the poet highlights and outlines his purpose
‘’My subject is war and the pity of war’’ Owen, W. 1988 p4 This statement sums up in a nutshell the poet’s opinion and dislike towards war. Owen through his writing and poetry condemns those who glorify war and those who tempted young men to join the army with heroic rhetoric. It contrasts the idealistic views that were held about the war at the time with harsh reality of those who fought in the front lines. Owen powerfully conveys this to the reader in a very clever way by using visual stimuli to grab the reader to describe the scene. The title of this poem is ironic the title means it is sweet and right to die for ones country its not particularly sweet or heroic to die for ones country and that’s what Owen goes on to explore thorough out the poem.
Stanza one begins with a description of the shocking condition of a group of soldiers retreating from the battle field the soldiers are in a state of pure exhaustion the detail used to describe the men’s wretched state is in marked contrast to the glorified image of war suggested by the title there is absolutely nothing glorified or military about the soldiers described in the first 8 lines, infact very much the opposite, stanza one is heavily punctuated, slowing down the pace of the opening of the poem to suggest the slow staggering movements of the weary run down soldiers.
‘’Bent over like old beggars under sacks,
Knock kneed, coughing like hags,
We cursed our way through sludge’’ Owen, W. 1988, p50 this first simile ‘’Like old beggars’’ undermines stereotypes image of a typical soldier as young, fit and well, this line suggests they are unfit filthy and weak. ‘’Coughing like hags’’ this simile conveys how men have become unrecognisable their masculinity and youth destroyed and taken from them. Prematurely aging there old before there time immediately Owen conveys to the reader that instead of the strapping young men you see them to be in the propaganda posters there bent over, Owen is creating the scene by using these techniques ‘’Knock-Kneed’’ onomatopoeia is used to create and enhance the readers experience almost as if the reader is in the scene. The two K’s in the ‘’Knock-Kneed’’ is also alliteration this is used to emphasise a hard staccato sound to echo the harsh mood of the lines and the soldiers misery. Owens choice of words emphasise how exhausted and depressed the men feel ‘’Trudge’’ ‘’Drunk’’ ‘’Blind’’ ‘’Lame’’ and ‘’Limped’’ the opening lines of the poem describes the terrible physical state of the soldiers Owen conveys how they have been transformed by the war his purpose is to indicate from the start that war is not glamorous and romantic it is anything but. In stanza two a series of short exclamations conveys panic a sudden contrast to verse one as the soldiers are subjected to a chemical warfare attack they have to regain their senses and adapt to their current surroundings they have to fit their gas masks on quickly. ‘’Gas! Gas! Quick boys –an ecstasy of fumbling’’
The word ecstasy implies madness this is what is in Owen’s mind at this point in a frantic attempt to save their own lives unfortunately they don’t all get to their masks on...