Dulce Et Decorum Est Analysis and Plot

Wilfred Owen always possessed a great passion for writing from a young age. He wrote poetry in his teen years, and even moved to France for two years to work as a language tutor. However, in 1915 he returned to England to enlist for his country in World War I and commissioned into the Manchester Regiment. Wilfred engaged in heavy fighting on the western front for months until he was diagnosed with shellshock and sent back to England to be treated at Craiglockhart War Hospital.

There, Owen met the poet Siegfried Sassoon who encouraged his work and introduced him to literary elements that reformed his style and perception of poetry. After “healing” and returning to France, Owen was awarded with the Military cross for bravery, glorifying the terrible events he survived through. Therefore, the central theme or universal idea of 'Dulce et Decorum Est' by Wilfred Owen is that people should not glorify/romanticize the acts of war but rather should speak the truth because otherwise this could lead to many negative consequences.

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Owen organizes his poem into 4 stanzas, each having a specific purpose. In the first stanza, he begins by introducing the soldiers that he is surrounded by. He focuses mainly on the gloom and despondency of their situation, which seems to have drained them of life, literally and figuratively. In the first line, the speaker states the soldiers, “like old beggars under sacks. In this the sacks represent not only the ruck sacks and heavy equipment that they must continuously lug around, but also their large burdens/complications from joining the war effort.

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In addition, Owen compares them to old women as they walk, “knock kneed, coughing like hags”. Hag is a derogatory term for old women that refers to them appearing to be so unattractive that they are perceived as evil or witch-like. This emphasizes the soldier’s physical weariness as they struggle to keep moving on through mud trenches. In lines 3 and 4 Owen clarifies the direction of their movement and states, “Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs/ And towards our distant rest began to trudge”. This portrays that the soldiers are marching away from enemy territory, being the place of the continuous bombs and flames of destruction, and towards their temporary place of relief. Owen continues to describe the conditions they faced by stating that, “Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots/ But limped on, blood-shod”. He purposely hyphenates two words to create this image that captures the tattered, awful state of the men's feet. To be 'shod' is to wear shoes, but since many of them have lost their actual combat shoes in the mud, they are 'blood-shod' possessing shoes of blood. Owen reveals the soldiers also, “All went lame; all blind/ Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots/ Of gas-shells dropping softly behind” . In this case, lameness refers to injury or other disability that impairs freedom of movement in a body part, especially a limb. Here, the soldiers may have various injuries, or may just be impaired by their exhaustion. It is due to this exhaustion that they are not even aware that they are still under attack. These lines thus assist in setting the scene to help the reader understand the soldiers' fatigue, frustration and the constant danger that still surrounds them. Owen uses such harsh words and real-life comparisons to portray to the public that war is not nearly as “sweet and proper” as they imagine it to be. He is one of the few people to speak the truth, as he can use his firsthand experiences to educate others of the excruciating the daily events. Without his honesty, others would never be educated on these horrors and then sent into battle on false hope and inaccurate predispositions.

While the speaker is quite perspicuous in stating that the life of a soldier is full of pain and dread, he demonstrates in the second stanza that death in war is also terrible and agonizing, unlike what most civilians think. In the first two lines of the second stanza, the speaker captures the fear and confusion of facing a gas attack when a soldier shouts “Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!”. He then follows this alerting statement with, “An ecstasy of fumbling/ Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time” . His change in volume exemplifies the urgency of the situation and expounds upon the fact that that gas attacks were a highly deadly weapon newly incorporated in combat. However, following all of this commotion, the speaker takes notice of a particular man, “yelling out and stumbling/ And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime” . Lime was a chemical weapon commonly utilized to blind one’s enemy. Dulce Et Decorum Est shows how Owen uses this to effectively show how his fellow soldier has lost control and can no longer function proper, but rather just wander and run aimlessly. The speaker continues to then compare the scene he encounters, “Dim through the misty panes and thick green light/ As under a green sea, I saw him drowning”. Through such comparison, the speaker depicts how he views the gas to be consuming them all around like a vast ocean, and further showing that it is all he can breathe in now. Meanwhile, the speaker can only watch helplessly from within the safety of his own mask. This other soldier's death is agonizing to watch, as Owen realizes that it could not only happen to him at any moment, but also that there is no one else who seems to take notice of the event. It’s as though his death had no purpose along with little to no impact on the war at all. His service was presumably for nothing.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Dulce Et Decorum Est Analysis and Plot. (2024, Feb 10). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/dulce-et-decorum-est-analysis-and-plot-essay

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