Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dulce Et Decorum Est

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Dulce Et Decorum Est - Critical Response

Written by Madbhoy

A poem which I have recently read is “Dulce Et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen. The main point Wilfred Owen tries to convey in this poem is the sheer horror of war. Owen uses many techniques to show his feelings, some of which I’ll be exploring.

Wilfred Owen is a tired soldier on the front line during World War I. In the first stanza of Dulce Et Decorum Est he describes the men and the condition they are in and through his language shows that the soldiers deplore the conditions. Owen then moves on to tell us how even in their weak human state the soldiers march on, until the enemy fire gas shells at them. This sudden situation causes the soldiers to hurriedly put their gas masks on, but one soldier did not put it on in time. Owen tells us the condition the soldier is in, and how, even in the time to come he could not forget the images that it left him with. In the last stanza he tells the readers that if we had seen what he had seen then we would never encourage the next generation to fight in a war.

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Owen uses imagery constantly to convey the conditions and feelings experienced during this war. Firstly I will be exploring Metaphor as it is used so much in this poem. The first metaphor which I will examine is “Haunting Flares” on line of the first stanza. This quote has so many connotations, my first opinion on this was that the flares which the enemy are firing to light up the battle field are said to be representing the souls of the soldiers fallen comrades. This could also be said to represent the power the enemy has on their own mortality as the bright flares would light up the battle-field exposing everything to their view, this indicates that the enemy always seem to have power upon the soldiers, almost godly. The second metaphor which I will explore is “An ecstasy of fumbling” on line one of the second stanza. This metaphor is significant as it describes the quick manner in which the soldiers will have been trying to put their masks on. The soldiers would have been trying to put their masks on in a hurry but due to their physical condition their minds would have been wanting them to go faster than their body would have been allowing them, this is why there is said to be a “Fumbling”. The term “Ecstasy” would normally suggest a time of extreme emotion, normally joy, however in this situation it is used as a term of irony as this is a completely bewildering time for the men (another extreme emotion).

Owen uses simile to explain better the situation faced by the men. Simile is often used by poets and is used mainly for description in Dulce Et Decorum Est. The poet provides us with these similes as he has simplified them to a state in which we would understand them. An example of this would be “flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…” this example makes us aware of the movement which this soldier would use during the gas attack “flound’ring”. Another implication this simile has is that the soldier would not be in control of the situation as if a man was on fire he would not be able to put it out simply and this would be similar with the soldier used in the example as this would be an unusually helpless situation for him to be in. Owen does not use simile as much as the previous kinds of imagery.

There are several image groups used in this poem, two of which I will be reviewing. The first image group is “Sleep or Dreams”. Owen often refers to many subconscious states like the afore mentioned one, the reason why he uses these references so frequently is that war is made apparent to the reader as being a subconscious state as the realities often seem to be too hard to except, an example which backs up my opinion is “Men marched asleep”. The poet often refers to dreams. I believe part of the reason for this is that by dreaming you are escaping from the physical reality and surroundings and due to the horror and constant threat of death the soldiers would constantly be dreaming of home and their loved ones. However, Wilfred Owen could be looking at dreams being constant reminders of some past atrocity, similar to a recurring dream “ In all my dreams, before my helpless sight he plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning”. The second and final image group I will be studying is “Sea or Drowning”. Owen uses this image group usually to describe the situation of a soldier or soldiers during the poem. An example of when Owen uses this method “As under a green sea I saw him drowning” this sentence is used when Owen views a soldier suffering the consequences of a Gas attack. The gas attack seems to be one of the main topics in the poem and as a result this particular piece of imagery is based around it as every word or sentence to do with sea or drowning is based around this significant event “Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light”

In Dulce Et Decorum Est there are many different sound types used, alliteration, onomatopoeia, rhyme etc. One of the sound types I will be looking at is Full or perfect rhyme. This sound type is significant as in Dulce Et Decorum Est at the end of each sentence rhymes with the one before the last. This is significant as when reading this poem you notice this rhyming scheme and take more time to stop and ponder over the significance of the language it is based around and what connotations that word has “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks” and “Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs”. This is one of the most effective rhyming schemes in the poem. Due to every second line rhyming this makes your remember what the poet was trying to put across in the previous lines as all the different lines have a way of tying in with one another.

Through reading this poem several times I decided that the message from the poem is that war is full of horror and there is little or no glory. Methods which I found most effective were Full rhyme and metaphor.

Overall Wilfred Owen shows that there is no triumph in war, he does this by using the dying soldier as an example. His main point is that the old saying “Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori” is a lie.

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