The Harsh Reality of War in Wilfred Owen’s Poem Dulce et Decorum Est

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Wilfred Owen’s poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” makes the reader acutely aware of the impact of war. The speaker’s experiences with war are vivid and terrible. Through the themes of the poem, his language choices, and contrasting the pleasant title preceding the disturbing content of the poem, he brings attention to his views on war while during the midst of one himself. Owen uses symbolism in form and language to illustrate the horrors the speaker and his comrades go through; and the way he describes the soldiers, as though they are distorted and damaged, parallels how the speaker’s mind is violated and haunted by war. Chaos and drudgery are common themes throughout the poem, displayed in its form; it is nearly iambic pentameter, but not…show more content…
This image is definitely not the glamorous picture of glory that, say army recruitment presents; worse, the soldiers are doing worse than civilians. As soon as the next stanza “[m]en marched asleep. Many had lost their boots” (5). They have lost their usual awareness and move mechanically; that doesn’t sound appealing! It gets worse: “[b]ut limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind” (6). So now they’re limping, apparently wounded, covered in blood, and can’t even see? It worsens further, “[d]runk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots/ Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind” (7-8). The soldiers are so exhausted it incapacitates them, and they can no longer hear the bullets being fired. This poem sounds like a distorted nightmare, except the speaker is living it, and even reliving the torment of the soldier’s death while he is unconscious. Owen’s wording expresses that the soldiers are merely men, deteriorating and inconceivably overwhelmed the opposite of positive war poetry containing glory and honor. Owen also uses language of terror and powerlessness for the speaker as the poem progresses. Describing the soldier the speaker has seen fail to attach his gas mask, he says, “I saw him drowning” (14). He dreams of this encounter repeatedly, “[in] all my dreams, before my helpless sight/ He plunges at me” (15-16). In his dreams, he is not only powerless to aid this man, but
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