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Dulce Et Decorum Est Essay

1615 words - 6 pages

Dulce et Decorum Est

In Wilfred Owen’s poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” the speaker’s argument against whether there is true honor in dieing for ones country in World War I contradicts the old Latin saying, Dulce et Decorum Est, which translated means, “it is sweet and honorable to die for the fatherland”; which is exemplified through Owen’s use of title, diction, metaphor and simile, imagery, and structure throughout the entirety of the poem.

The first device used by Owen in the poem is without a doubt the title, in which he uses to establish the opposing side of the argument in the poem. The poem is titled, “Dulce et Decorum Est”, which comes from Horace’s Odes, book three, line 13, and translated into English to mean: “It is sweet and honorable to die for the fatherland”. With this title it would seem as if the Owen himself condones the patriotic propaganda that resulted in the deaths of young men in World War I tallying upward of hundreds of thousands. However, the contents of the poem itself with in fact contradict the title, and the speaker will actually refuse to accept the Latin saying, and actually detest the patriotic propaganda. Through Owen’s use of metaphors and similes the argument the speaker is making within the poem becomes more apparent.

The similes and metaphors used by Owen illustrate very negative war scenes throughout the poem, depicting extreme suffering of young men fighting during World War I. The first simile used by Owen describes the soldiers as “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks”, giving them sickly, wounded, and exhausted attributes from battle and lack of rest (1). Next, the soldiers are described as “Knock-kneed, coughing like hags”, which once again portrays these young men as sickly old men on their death beds because of the war’s conditions (2). The speaker continues to describe the soldiers who are fighting, suffering, and dieing for their fatherland to obtain a sense of honor when he says that “Men marched asleep”, they were so exhausted that it was if they were sleep-walking to continue marching on (5). The men were also “Drunk with fatigue” because they never had time to rest from the fighting and marching, and this metaphor makes it apparent that the men are so tired they are actually stumbling and staggering to continue much like someone who is inebriated would (7). The speaker goes on to use a simile to describe a man who did not get his gas mask on fast enough and now he “was yelling out and stumbling / And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime” because the gas was melting his insides and was acting much like a fish out of water would, suffering from excruciating pain (11-12). The speaker further describes the man suffering because of the gas, while he himself had his mask on fast enough, “As under a green sea, I saw him drowning” (14). When the speaker uses this simile describing the man drowning under the green sea, he is actually referring to the man literally drowning in his own...

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