The poem "Dulce et Decorum est" was written by Wilfred Owen during World War One, and is probably the most popular war-poem ever written.The title is part of the Latin phrase 'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori' which means 'It is sweet and right to die for your country'. Wilfred Owen saw the war first-hand and this poem is about a gas attack that he witnessed. Throughout this poem Owen gives the sense of anger and injustice through the use of many different poetic techniques.
Wilfred Owen emphasises the condition of the men in order to show the reader the effect that the war had on the soldiers. He often compares the young soldiers to elderly people:
"Bent double, like old beggars under sacks"
In this simile the soldiers are being compared to old beggars because of their physical condition. They are 'bent double' as the weight of the sacks mean they can't walk properly despite being young, healthy soldiers. As well as this, this war aged them permanently. Wilfred Owen continues to describe the condition of the soldiers and again he compares them to old people with the use a simile:
"Knock-kneed, coughing like hags"
Knock-kneed is a figure of speech but the author could also mean the soldiers' knees were literally knocking together due to their injuries and the weight of the sacks. This line also describes the cough of the soldiers as being like an old persons cough - deep and hoarse. Owen also wants to tell us that the soldiers were overworked and extremely tired:
"Drunk with fatigue"
Word choice in this metaphor is interesting. You wouldn't normally associate 'drunk' with an on-duty soldier and this shows us how they are walking - basically staggering around. 'Fatigue' means that they are more than just tired, they are extremely exhausted due to all the work they have done on the front line. We are angry that the young soldiers are physically like elderly people and there is injustice as the soldiers are overworked.
Wilfred Owen described the effects of a gas attack on a soldier who failed to get his gas mask on very vividly through imagery and word choice:
"He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning"
The word choice here makes this statement very strong. Owen uses an alliteration of the letters 'ing' and all of the words in the alliteration are harsh words. Repeating these choke-like words make us imagine the soldier literally choking up his lungs. The word 'plunges' also gives us the image of desperation and show us clearly how the man is moving. We are also told the extent of the
pain caused by the gas:
"And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime"
The simile makes us imagine being covered in fire or lime which is very painful and so we can understand the pain that the soldier is going through. The word choice with 'flound'ring' is also very good as the way it sounds in itself lets us know how the man is behaving (flapping about). Owen then goes on to describe the after-effects of the gas attack on the man: