Dulce Et Decorum Est

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Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ describes a particular scene in the lives of WWI soldiers. Owen opens the poem with a description of the soldiers who are ‘Bent double, like old beggars’ (line 1). The soldiers are tired, fatigued, their feet are bleeding; they are marching from the battlefield towards their camp for some rest. They are then attacked by poisonous gas, effects of which are similar to drowning. One of the soldiers fails to fit the gas mask in time, and Owen masterfully describes himself witnessing the soldier’s gruesome death. Owen ends the poem with the Latin proverb from Horace's Odes (III.2.13) ‘Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori’, meaning 'It is sweet and proper to die for one's country' (Dr. Stuart Lee, 1997). With those last few lines, Owen expresses his deepest disapproval of the war. He is rejecting the traditional view that glorifies war, calling it ‘The old Lie’ (line 27). Owen is addressing the reader, who possibly doesn’t have the first hand experience of the war, and criticising the enthusiasm with which the war is described, particularly to vulnerable children (BBC, 2013). Owen uses the language and a variety of literary devices to vividly depict the true reality of war and suffering of the soldiers. This is evident from the first two lines where Owen uses simile to describe soldiers who are ‘like old beggars’ and ‘coughing like hags’ (lines 1,2). They are ‘blood-shod’, ‘drunk with fatigue’ (lines 6,7). Owen depicts soldiers not as undefeatable heroes, but desperate, weak, and pitiful human beings. The next scene begins with ‘Gas! Gas! Quick boys!’ (line 9), where exclamation points are used to show the urgency and immediacy of the situation (Stella Mcintyre, 2009). The desperation and fear of the soldiers is clear from the following: ‘An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time’ (lines 9, 10). Owen is
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