Dulce et Decorum Est


Dulce et Decorum Est Through vivid imagery and compelling metaphors "Dulce et Decorum Est" gives the reader the exact feeling the author wanted. The poem is an anti-war poem by Wilfred Owen and makes great use of these devices. This poem is very effective because of its excellent manipulation of the mechanical and emotional parts of poetry. Owen's use of exact diction and vivid figurative language emphasizes his point, showing that war is terrible and devastating. Furthermore, the utilization of extremely graphic imagery adds even more to his argument. Through the effective use of all three of these tools, this poem conveys a strong meaning and persuasive argument. To have a better understanding of the poem, it is important to understand some of Wilfred Owen?s history. Owen enlisted in the Artists? Rifles on October 21st 1915. He was eventually drafted to France in 1917. The birth of Owen?s imagery style used in his more famous poems was during his stay at Craiglockhart War Hospital, where he met Siegfried Sassoon (another great war poet). Owen?s new style (the one that was used in "Dulce et Decorum Est") embelished many poems between August 1917 and Septermber 1918 (Spartacus Internet Encyclopedia). On November 4, 1918, Wilfred Owed was killed by enemy machine gun fire as he tried to get his company across the Sambre Canal (Lane 167). The poem tells of a trip that Owen and his platoon of exhausted soldiers had while they were painfully making their way back to base after a harrowing time at the battle front when a gas shell was fired at them. As a result of this, a soldier in his platoon was fatally gassed. Owen has arranged the poem in three sections, each dealing with a different stage of this experience. He makes use of a simple, regular rhyme scheme, which makes the poem sound almost like a child's poem or nursery rhyme. This technique serves to emphasize the solemn and serious content. In stanza one, Owen describes the soldiers as they set off towards the army base from the front line. The simile "Bent double, like old beggars"(1) not only says that they are tired, but that they are so tired they have been brought down to the level of beggars who have not slept in a bed for weeks on end. Also, the simile "coughing like hags"(2) helps to depict the soldiers? poor health and depressed state of mind. Owen makes us picture the soldiers as ill, disturbed and utterly exhausted. He shows that this is not the government-projected stereotype of a soldier, in gleaming boots and crisp new uniform, but is the true illustration of the poor mental and physical state of the soldiers. By telling us that many of the platoon are barefoot, Owen gives us an idea of how awful the soldiers? journey already is; it then gets even worse. Owen tells us that the soldiers, although they must have been trained, still do not notice the deadly mustard gas shells being fired at them from behind; such is the extent of their exhaustion. In the second stanza, the pace of the narrative is increased. Owen describes the flurry of activity that takes place when it dawns on the platoon that they have the hazard of gas to deal with. He begins by writing "Gas, GAS!"(9), which instantly grabs the attention of the reader, and by writing it first in lower case and then again in capitals, he gives an impression of the rising alarm in the solders. Owen uses the expression "an ecstasy of fumbling"(9) to describe the soldiers trying desperately to get out and fit their gas masks, the word "ecstasy"(9) being used to give us the impression of the complete, all consuming panic which the soldiers feel when they notice the gas shells. This is effective because it is a complete contrast to the image of the soldiers before the shell, at first they were trudging on, "drunk with fatigue"(7), but are suddenly forced into an "ecstasy of fumbling"(9) by the falling of the gas shell. The description of the gas masks as "clumsy helmets"(10) tells us that the equipment given to the soldiers is heavy and substandard. Owen then describes one member of the platoon who was not quick enough in fitting his mask, and is now yelling out in pain