This simile is effective in helping us understand the sheer extremity of the soldiers’ exhaustion. The idea that war prematurely aged these boys is emphasized with a second simile “knock-kneed, coughing like hags”. Again we see these men in a state that they shouldn’t be in as Owen suggests they’re old, sick and on their last dregs of energy. Their limbs as well as their internal organs, unable to cope. Like beggars
This is good word choice because it shows us how the men are suffering and that they are tired. Also “coughing like hags” shows us that the soldiers look ill and as old as a hag who is an old, dirty witch, but they are really young men. In Verse one there is a good simile which also describes the soldiers: “Bent double like old beggars under sacks.” This is a good simile because it emphasises the heavy equipment they are carrying and “beggars” suggests how dirty and unhealthy the soldiers are. Secondly as well as making such comparisons, Owen’s effective word choice strengthen the impact of the poem on the reader. At the start of this poem the poet uses the word “Trudge”.
‘Knock-kneed’ suggests that the soldier is trying to keep his knees together and his feet wide apart to keep himself steady so that he can continue walking. He also uses metaphors to do this, like ‘men marched asleep’, which makes us think of the men nearly falling over with exhaustion, maybe even with their eyes half shut. They are so tired, that we discover that they have even turned their back on the shells which are being fired at them. This shows us that they are too exhausted even to care if they lived or died, which is very sad. As they are not caring about living, or looking back, they don’t hear the gas shells that are ‘dropping softly behind them ‘.
Soldiers who go off to war are meant to be healthy and strong, however, this poem portrays the soldiers as old and unhealthy people. Owen uses images that are far from noble. The soldiers are described as, ‘bent double, like old beggars under sacks’ and ‘coughing like hags’, and this highlights the exhaustion the soldiers were feeling. Considering that the exhaustion of the soldiers is representing humanity at its worst, this emphasises how Owens poetry is driven by a passionate exploration of humanity at its worst. The poem is also able to depict how the soldier’s condition is, and what they should be.
There were also a lot of gas attacks. Owen really tries to get the reader to understand how bad it was by using horrid imaginary by telling us how tired the soldiers were by writing ‘Men march asleep’ and ‘Drunk with fatigue’ and of his description of watching a soldier dying because he couldn’t get his gas mask on in time of a gas attack. Owen poem is so descriptive that when reading it, you can imagine it in your mind playing like a film whilst reading it. The poem begins with the simile ‘Bent double like old sacks, knock-kneed coughing like hags’ we imagine the soldiers walking slowly like the elderly due to tiredness, and bent double due to all the equipment that they carried at the time with the sounds of five-nines exploding around them. ‘Coughing like hags’ the conditions was not great in the trenches in World War 1, it was full of diseases and the weather conditions would make fighting a great deal harder.
In “Dulce et Decorum Est”, Owen is revealing that the idea of going to war for glory and honor is a lie because it is truly a painful and tragic way to die. Throughout the poems entirety, the tone of the poem is horror, melancholy and at times almost completely hopeless. This is Owen stating that the image of war is much more glamorized than it truly is. At the beginning of the poem, Owen introduces the reader to a platoon of soldiers, tired, war torn, and almost pathetic: Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs And towards our distant rest began to trudge (Owen, lines 1-4) With these four lines, Owen uses metaphors to show the weariness of the soldiers. The first two lines represent this the most, with the usage of phrases such as; “...like old beggars under sacks”, and “knock kneed, coughing like hags,”.
Owen’s aim in writing ‘Disabled’ was that he wanted to express the pity of war. He wrote, “My subject is War, and the pity of War. The poetry is in the pity”. He tries to show the pity of war through its consequences by concentrating on one of the soldiers who has been injured by a shell. Owen’s own experience of war was that he was a soldier who suffered shell shock after being attacked in France, and in contrast is the propaganda poets like Jessie Pope, he wanted to show the brutality and reality of war in his poem.
Turner does an exceptional job capturing the painful and terrible moments of the war in Iraq. I can imagine a retired veteran reading this poem and instantly relating to it, which is why this poem is so powerful. The first half of the poem uses explicit language that says “Nothing but bullets and pain/ and the bled-out slumping/ and all the fucks and goddamns/ and Jesus Christ’s of the wounded/”(2-4). This powerful, yet vulgar language is what sets the tone for this poem and also delivers the message to the reader that going overseas was no easy experience. This helped in adding more of a reality and complexity to the poem.
"Knock-kneed" is a condition that makes knees hit together when walking. Owen employed this in his poem to show the reader how tired the soldiers were. They could not stand up and walk straight because they had already "cursed through sludge" for many miles. He also utilized the phrase "blood shod", which is when a horseshoe gets put on too hard and the horse's hoofs start to bleed. This exhibited the physical pain that the soldiers were going through.
Let us first consider the poem from the aspect of symbolism and motifs. The first stanza brings clear images to mind of the painful physical conditions which soldiers are operating under. The tone is slow and deep and the reader can relate to the informal and slang diction and concepts within the poem, such as: “Bent double, like old beggars,” “Knock-kneed,” “Men march(ing)…(who) had lost their boots,…limped on blood-shod (bloody-feet/shoes). All went lame; all blind…drunk with fatigue.” What is so interesting is that much of that stanza speaks of things having to do with legs and feet experiencing severe injury, weakness, fatigue, and pain. Most people have the use of their legs and feet, but these descriptors help relate the importance and value of healthy, strong legs.