Dulce est Decrum est

In the poem, 'Dulce Et Decorum Est' by Wilfred Owen, the social climate of the World War I era is reflected through the poet's use of vivid imagery and poetic techniques. The poem itself presents an a blunt impression of the world through its linking of ideas and language in its text. The poem addresses the falsehood, that war is glorious, that it is noble, it describes the true horror and waste that is war, with the aim of changing the way in which society thinks about conflict.

The poem epitomises the futility and pointlessness of war. Not only is war a shocking waste of life, but it is ultimately barbarous and pointless act as World War I so horrendously demonstrated to the world powers. The graphic horror of war is presented through a series of images which are designed to demolish the notion of war being a patriotic and meaningful adventure. The one particularly vivid image that got to me was that of the lone soldier who doesn't fasten his mask fast enough and suffers from the full effects of deadly gas:

'In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.'
And then:
'If you could hear at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues.'

Owen generates two powerful images aimed at discouraging the mere thought of war by its emotionally distressing descriptions. The way in which Owen moved the images from a general concept to personal illustration by addressing the reader directly, 'If you could hear' indicated that I must place myself in this situation, and evoke the setting and all the associated emotions in my mind as I were in fact witnessing this event first hand. Perhaps to feel the emotions as Owen would himself. The poet helps this by precisely describing the surroundings and encouraging particularly sinister and dark emotions to surface. The vivid similes: 'obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud,' encourage a sickening reaction to the notion of actively engaging in battle. The idea of cancer represents the 'terminal' results and finality of war. Owen suggests that men who are sent to fight are being sent to their death; something as inevitable as death from cancer. The slow and painful death associated with cancer is likened to dying on the battlefield where those who aren't killed instantly are left to suffer horribly. Just like Owen?s gassed soldier.

The futility of war is shown in the first part of the poem where we see the soldiers, fatigued and wounded, returning to base camp when a gas attack is launched on them:

'Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots...
Gas! Gas! Quick boys!

The slow and steady movement of time felt whilst reading the beginning of this extract is due to the subdued and disheartening attitude of the soldiers. The placement of words directly reflects the fatigue felt by the weary boys. The image of them marching slowly, bloody and 'drunk', evokes similar feelings of tiredness in the reader which are quickly interrupted by 'Gas! Gas! Quick boys!'. These last few words of the passage come across as though one of the soldiers is saying them, even though it is the persona trying to communicate a message of cautiousness to the soldiers and at the same time reinforce the reality of these events to the reader. As a reader I feel the relative stillness of the men's quiet attitude being quickly interrupted by these 'loud' words. A contrast is established. This image, and the one of the lone soldier dying 'awakens' the minds of the people who read the poem to the reality of war as being a terrifyingly sad way for young people to die, and that ideology of patriotism and honour is the cause of such sickening circumstance. Owen is, effectively, placing the blame of the war's consequences squarely on the shoulders of the society that supports it.

The language in this poem is quite simple yet vivid, encouraging the reader to understand the situation and to be emotionally 'awakened' in the process. In particular, Owen wants to bring home the realities