Critical Analysis of Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce Et Decorum Est” Essay
1168 WordsNov 24th, 20115 Pages
Critical Analysis of Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” Wilfred Owen’s poem “Dulce et Decorum Est”, is a powerful poem with graphical lifelike images on the reality of war. It is blatantly apparent that the author was a soldier who experienced some of the most gruesome images of war. His choice of words, diction, tone, syntax, and metaphor’s paint a vivid picture in a brilliant poem. His choice for the poem’s name is ironical in itself. The entire phrase is “Dulce et Decorum Est Pro patria mori”, which basically translates to “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country”. This was a common theme told to young soldiers during the First World War. The phrase itself came from a Roman poet named Horace. The argumentative claim…show more content…
Wilfred Owen utilizes informal diction within this poem, his choice of words and jargon is keenly apparent with readers of military knowledge and experience. His use of syntax and tone distinctly put the reader in the middle of crisis: Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! – As ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time, (Meyer 886)
These few lines completely change the feeling of following battle weary soldiers marching to the rear, to complete chaos of the moment. The reader can feel the adrenaline rush through them as they picture young soldiers donning their chemical warfare gear while under attack. This gives the readers the impression of panic and urgency, even though they were exhausted. Equipping their gear “clumsy” distinguishes that the soldiers cannot put their gear on quick enough, helps to portray the urgency of the moment.
Wilfred Owen leaves nothing to the imagination of the reader. He clearly explains that war is not “sweet” and shows the graphic nature instead by painting a gruesome display of death. He explicitly demonstrates through vivid images and carefully chosen words to articulate the horrors of war:
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs (Meyer 887)
The reader receives a distinct mental image of one of the soldiers dying a slow and painful horrible death. These words
Wilfred Owen had considerable first-hand experience of the horrors of gas warfare during World War I, and his poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” is an attempt to depict the helplessness of men caught in a gas attack. Writing in four irregular verse paragraphs, Owen describes the general condition of men involved in the war, sketches briefly the shock of a gas attack, then dwells on the aftermath of this tragic event on someone who lives through it.
Although it is often unwise to associate the narrator of a poem with its author, it is quite likely that in “Dulce et Decorum Est” Owen is speaking in his own voice. His method of direct address to the reader makes his appeal in the final lines especially compelling.
Owen opens the poem with a description of a group of demoralized soldiers retreating from the front lines of the battlefield. The men are clearly fatigued (“Men marched asleep,” the narrator observes), so worn down that they are “deaf even to the hoots/ Of gas-shells dropping softly behind” (lines 78). Then, suddenly, someone shouts “Gas! GAS!” (line 9), and the men go into an “ecstasy of fumbling” (line 9) to put on masks before the deadly poison can take their lives. All but one are successful; the narrator looks out from behind the glass of his protective mask into the “green sea” (line 14) that the gas has created around him and his comrades, watching helplessly as one of his fellow soldiers dies in agony.
The image of that dying soldier is one that can never leave the narrator. As readers learn in the two lines set off from the rest of the text, the sight of that dying comrade haunts the narrator’s dreams, as the soldier “plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning” (line 16).
That memory prompts the narrator to offer in the final verse paragraph some bitter advice to readers about the nature of warfare and the outcome of blind patriotism. In the last twelve lines of the poem, Owen describes his experience of walking behind the wagon in which the dead man has been placed, seeing the corpse frozen in the twisted agony of its death throes. That sight, he says, would prevent any man from adopting glibly the notion that dying for one’s country is somehow noble.