"Dulce Et Decorum Est" By Wilfred Owen: Analysis

1082 words - 4 pages

"Dulce Et Decorum Est" is a subversion of traditional poetical style, to show how war has made society confused. It shows, by using the flashback technique, in all clarity the horrors and agony of war from the perspective of the people in it, and therefore sends an anti-war message and denounces the idealist's thinking that it is glorious, good and fitting to die for one's country.The title, "Dulce Et Decorum Est" (latin for "how sweet and fitting it is") gives an unsettled feeling to the reader because of its very incompleteness. The reader is left hanging on the cliff, as he does not know what exactly is sweet and fitting. Moreover, the title provides a sharp contrast to the rest of the poem, because it implies that the poem is going to celebrate something good about life, but the poem instead serves up the horrific reality of war and death.The soldiers are portrayed as wretched, like "old beggars" and "hags". They are made to "trudge" long distances through dirt and "sludge" before they can rest. They are in a deplorable state of physical health, being "bent double", "knock-kneed" and "coughing like hags". They are "limping" bare-footed, "blood-shod" because they had lost their boots. With no exceptions, "all" have become "lame" and "blind", "drunk with fatigue" and "deaf" even to loud missiles and shells fired behind them. This shows the reader that there is no escape, as a soldier, from all these agonies, and that the soldiers have become desensitized even to "Five-Nines" which could kill them. Indeed, the effects of war have taken their toll on the soldiers, and they certainly are not the typically envisioned glorified heroes.Despite the dramatic description of the wretched state of the soldiers, there remains a sense of surrealism in the first stanza, due to the fact that the average reader cannot relate to such extreme pains and cannot experience the reality of war first-hand. Long, heavy sounds are used, such as "hags", "haunting" and "all", to bring about a lethargic effect upon the reader. Just as the soldiers are "drunk" with fatigue, the reader begins to feel sluggish as well. Unlike other literary works which have the surreal quality, however, this one does not depict a dreamland of sorts, but paints a picture of a nightmare, a reality no one would ever want to face.The rhythm of the poem radically increases in the second stanza, to reflect how the soldiers are abruptly shocked out of their stupor. Monosyllabic words, used with exclamation marks, such as "gas!" and "quick!" serve to make the stanza fast-paced with a staccato rhythm.There is also irony in the fact that the word "ecstasy" is used to describe the way the soldiers were "fumbling" for the "clumsy helmets" to protect them against the mustard gas. "Ecstasy" gives ideas of being euphoric, as though one is on high. However, the adrenaline in this case is fear driven, rather than driven by happiness or excitement. The contradiction of ideas unsettles the reader more.One...

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