World War 0ne was a time that there was a strong atmosphere about human existence because of the lies that were told when trying to get people to enlist. Many thought that the war was a glorious ting to do, but this was not the case as Wilfred Owen tells us in his poem “Dulce et Decorum Est”. The title of the poem is taken from one of Horace’s famous Odes, explaining the wonders and the honour of dying for your country. The title meaning “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country” gives the reader the idea that the poem will be pro-war and will glamorise this, similar to the poem of which the title comes from. The first stanza ,however, shatters this expectation as it goes on to really tell of the horrors of World War One, in vivid detail.
The first line of the poem emphasises the contrast between the idea of war, with the harsh reality.
“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks.”
The men are so exhausted they cannot stand straight. They are also burdened by the weight of their equipment upon their backs. They are then compared to old beggars. They are beggars in the sense that their clothes are dirty, and ripped. They are old, in that they are no longer the boys they were before the war. The best days of their lives have subsequently been taken from them. This is a far cry from the stereotypical soldier with straight backs, gold metals and shiny boots. Later on in the first stanza, Owen uses highly effective figurative language.
“Men marched asleep”
The men were not literally asleep, but this statement refers to the state that the men were in. It was almost as if they weren’t fully conscious of their surroundings. Although this is true, the men are pulled out of this state at breakneck speed when a gas shell is dropped.
“Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!”
This is a direct contrast to the language used in the first stanza. Suddenly the men are alert. The awakening realisation that they might die.
“An ecstasy of fumbling”
Indeed that is a strange use of the word ecstasy, but is meant to describe the overwhelming emotion felt by the men as they desperately try to survive. All but one succeeds. Owen’s use of the word “in” instead of “on” in the line
“Like a man in fire or lime” emphasises the extreme pain the unmasked soldier is in. As if being on fire is not painful enough, the solider is experiencing pain like being completely engulfed in flames and a burning from within his body.
The third stanza is short yet effective as it lets the reader know that Owen is haunted in his nightmares, by the sight of his dying friend, It explains how he felt helpless, there was nothing he could do, he was dying. The poet’s inclusion of onomatopoeic words such as “Guttering” and “choking” creates the realistic image of his dreams.
The fourth and final stanza in the poet’s plea to the reader to take his message on-board. Owen is directly referring to the reader as he says.
“You too” “If you could hear” and “my friend” and by doing this, the reader feels that they must do so. One of the most powerful lines in the final stanza is
“Like a devil’s sick of sin”.
This line is so effective as it explains how even the devil could not create such a sin as the war, and that he is tired of committing sins after witnessing war.
The poem comes to a climax at the last three lines of the fourth stanza. After he refers to the reader as his friend to ensure