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This essay will consider a poem and an extract from two different authors, each writing about events in the First and Second World Wars The first piece to be considered is a poem called “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen. In this poem, Owen describes the atrocities of war by describing a group if men returning from the front line, experiencing a gas attack in which one of them dies and then goes on the address the people back at home and ask them whether war is actually as noble and as glorious as it is made to be.
Owen portrays the soldiers by using similes and metaphors. In lines 1 and 2, Owen uses words like: “Old beggars” and “Hags” to give a visual description of the soldiers walking back from the front line. This shows how young soldiers have aged though the hardships of war. They have been reduced from proud and strong young men in the prime of their lives to old beggars – literally the lowest of the low.
They are bent double not only by the heavy equipment they are carrying (the average soldier in WW1 used to regularly carry weights in excess of) but also by the experience of war itself. Own goes on to describe how they were trudging, not walking or marching but that they cursed through sludge. Cursed is not actually a word to describe movement but shows how every yard of the way brought obscenities to the lips of these men who have had enough of the appalling conditions. The phrase “An ecstasy of fumbling” is an unusual one.
Typically used in association with joy, it is possible Owen used the word ecstasy to portray the adrenalin rush caused by the panic of the gas attack. It is as almost as if the soldiers. Own the goes on to describe how one man dies. In recalling this scene, he uses the phrase: “In all my dreams before my helpless sight. ” This and an earlier reference to “Haunting flares,” suggests that Own suffered from nightmares in consequence of war. Own uses very graphic and disturbing imagery in lines 17-24, describing how the man dies under the gas attack.
For example, “As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. ” and “He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. ” These quotes tell us that the narrator sees the man suffering at the peril of the gas; he refers to the gas as a green sea, and describes the man drowning. In the last few lines of the poem, Own sends a very clear message that death in war is not, as is often described, glorious or honourable but is in fact gruesome and ghastly, scarring to those who witness it.