Explication of “Dulce et Decorum Est” In the poem by Wilfred Owen “Dulce et Decorum Est” is written in regard of the speakers experience during the war in World War I. Owen writes about the repugnance of the war that the civilians does not know about and fully understand. He explains in his poem the naivety of people by encouraging young men to fight for their country, but in return sentence them to an unnecessary death. The poet makes it clear in the poem that he is personally against the war and the horror he witnessed was overwhelming. Owen illustrated his meaning through imagery, irony, and setting and situation.
First, Owen uses imagery to helps make the theme clear to the readers. The poems starts with the line “bent double, like old beggars under sacks/Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through the sludge” (Owen 1-2). In this lines shows how exhausted the soldiers are, and how the war affected them is such a way that they cannot even fathom. These men are tired and hungry, and their lives are not safe because they are in a world of combat where every seconds counts. Another form of imagery that he uses is in lines 5-6, “Men marched asleep. /Many had lost their boots/but limped on, blood shod” (Owen).
This lines shows the men are suffering from sleep deprivation from lack of rest. Also, some of them do not have boots or their boots are not in a good condition, yet they still kept on marching. Sleep can be a danger in a soldiers’ life because being in a war they have to be alert always to monitor their perimeter. Owen’s gruesome experience of the war makes him responsible to let the reader know what kind of sufferings and struggles the soldier are enduring being in the war. Another form of imagery Owen uses that is disturbing are, “The white eyes writhing in his face” (Owen 19) is horrendous.
The tiredness that the soldier feels make their eyes sunken because of not having enough rest and the stress they must feel being in a war where their lives are in danger at all times. Being part of the war is horrifying because they are uncertain of their lives whether they will survive the day or night. Through imagery Owen wants the reader to take a look of what the soldiers are going through, that the war is not as pleasant as the civilians think it is. The next element that Owen use to reinforce his poetry is the use of irony.
First thing that the reader notice is the title of the poem, “Dulce et Decorum Est” which means, “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country” (Question #1 408) represents why the meaning of the poem is so popular during WWI. In other words, it means that it is an honor to die for your country, but the irony of the poem is that it means the opposite of what people think of how war should be. The poets thought in regard to the poem is to inform people back home that the war is not a good sight at all because the result for young men who are enlisted to go to war is death.
Owen wants to let the readers know how despicable the war really is, and for them to be informed to stop recruiting young men to go to the war, but instead try to fight for the war to seize, so people can start leaving peacefully without any young man dying. In this poem it is obvious that the speaker is against this war, he wants people to see, they can help stop this war that causing the lives of many soldiers. Lastly, the element of setting and situation helps the readers understand how this poem is written.
During World War I this poem was written and the speaker is experiencing the effect of the war, and the gruesomeness that the this event caused. The speaker is writing this poem through his experience because he really wants the people back home to know that it is not worth sacrificing the life of young men. Being in the battle field, the soldiers are on guard at all time. The soldiers never know what kind of surprise they might have, “gas-shells dropping softly behind” (Owen 8), this line shows that being in the war zone is a death trap that can be impossible to avoid.
The setting and situation helps illustrate to the people back home how horrifying war can be, and people should take it as a warning to the young men who are planning to join the military. Another part of the poem that makes this war a death trap is from the second stanza, “Gas! Gas! ” (Owen 9) the poisonous gas that kills many innocent soldiers who does not know that their life can be taken in a flash. The speaker definitely did a great job making the setting clear for the readers to understand that war is not as pleasant as they think it is, but a horrifying experience for people who are able to survive.
The descriptive of Owen’s poem help us understand what is the truth of what the soldiers are going through in the battle. The imagery help us imagine how inhumane and gruesome the war truly is. Also, the Irony of the poem and the title itself helps us to realize the different views between the civilians and soldiers. Lastly, the setting and situation definitely help us pinpoint when and where exactly the battle is happening, and it is giving us an idea that the speaker is writing from his own experiences being in the front line.