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Effects of War: Understanding Owen's “Dulce Et Decorum Est” Essay

Wilfred Owen’s poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” seems to make some sense of the life in the war, the experience of combat in World War I. Some people have their own opinions of how fighting for your country is a glorious thing. The speaker tells how men died indecent and horrible deaths. Owen uses intense imagery and extensive irony throughout his poem by telling how going to war could be very gruesome. Owen begins the poem by describing the way soldiers were wounded and even how they died a gruesome death through the use of imagery.

The speaker starts off in a calm way until the men are hit with gas. The soldiers are both mentally and physically disabled from the war by saying “Knock-kneed, coughing like hags” (line 2). No matter how injured the soldiers were they still had enough energy and dedication to make it back to their camp site: “we turned our backs/And towards our distant rest began to trudge” (3, 4). By mentioning that they had to go a “Distant rest” could mean that they are in harm’s way and headed towards their death (4).

Owen explains how the body of a person can deteriorate with the strike of a gas bomb as the speaker says, “Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! ”, by the use of imagery (9). Here we feel the hopelessness of what the men are going through. With a word such as “clumsy”, the speaker tells us that the young soldiers have a hard time putting on their helmets to avoid the effects of the gas attack. Men were falling down once hit and became covered with sores that spread as fast as cancer, “like a man in fire or lime…” (12).

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As the speaker comes in contact with another young soldier the speaker witnesses the young man “drowning” in the “green sea”, meaning the gas (14). Owen uses words such as “guttering, choking, drowning” to make us see how the young man falls to his death (16). As the speaker begins to deal with the nightmares from the war he realizes that he has lost a friend to the gas attack which is to haunt him every day for the rest of his life. In the closing lines, the speaker uses irony by trying to put us in his shoes but explains that it is not the same unless one experiences the way of the wars themselves.

As he sees his friend’s body deteriorating due to the gas, one would say that “to children ardent for some desperate glory/The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est/Pro patria mori” meaning that the war is not just a place to fight for glory and honor. The war can be a horrible and terrible thing to go through. This poem seems to discourage young men from serving their country due to the dangers that come along with the trench of the warfare and poison gas in World War I.

Works Cited Owen, Wilfred. “Dulce et Decorum Est. ” Literature: Craft & Voice. Eds. Nicholas Delbanco and Alan Cheuse. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. Print.

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