The war poem Dulce et Decorum Est was written by a World War 1 soldier, Second Lieutenant Wilfred Edward Salter Owen. The poem shows the reader what the soldiers had to endure during the war both emotionally and physically and creates many emotions in the reader such as sympathy, pity and anger. These are created and emphasised through the vivid and graphic description of a gas attack on a group of soldiers. Pity is created in the first stanza as Owen describes the poor state of the men and the terrible transformation brought by their service in the war.
Bent Double, like old beggars under sacks, is a simile, which shows the men to be physically and mentally aged and damaged. Old beggars presents the image of the soldiers being poor, helpless and desperate, as well as old. This description of stereotypical elderly features is repeated throughout the first stanza, the men are described as Blind, Lame and Limped. The men have lost their childhood and possibly their innocence. Pity is also created further into the stanza And towards out distant rest began to trudge..Order now
Distant rest, in its lighter terms, means a bed in a safe area where they might shake their fatigue. However it is actually foreshadowing the mens brutal and horrible death, as distant may refer to the afterlife and how far away it is, and rest for obvious reasons, refers to death. This is also shown in the phrase Men marched asleep. The shortness of the sentence may indicate how much time the men have to live, while asleep also shows fatigue and poor physical conditions.
The men may already be dead, metaphorically, which links in with rest. Trudge is also used to emphasise the conditions the men had to walk in. The word walked, or strolled, may have been used but Owen used trudge to show the soil and how difficult it is move on, especially with damaged limbs, fatigue and possibly, your best friends blood covering you. These lines create sympathy in the reader, as it saddens them to think of young men having to sleep and fight such a hellish place
In the second stanza the readers emotion changes from pity to horror as he describes the soldiers caught in a gas attack where one man fails to equip his gas mask or helmet. The reaction of the men is described as An ecstasy of fumbling, an oxymoron which contrast two ideas, firstly, ecstasy, meaning a state of sudden and intense feeling, usually a positive feeling such as pleasure or happiness. fumbling means to be disorganised and clumsy.
This fits in well as it creates an image of a group of soldiers frantically poking, and attacking their holsters with their hands, scurrying to grip their masks, the only thing that can save their lives. This challenges yet another stereotype in common society, that soldiers are fearless, ruthless heroes. Here, they are shown to be normal, vulnerable people. I saw him drowning is the phrase that shocks the reader most in this stanza as it was hard for anybody to picture a man dying horribly in gas but it may be easier for someone to imagine a person drowning.
This shows us that the mans death was brutal, unprovoked and ultimately unnecessary in the long run. It causes the reader to pity the dead man and also the other soldiers for having to experience this atrocity. The third stanza is where Wilfred Owen shocks the reader using imagery to show how horribly and terribly the soldier died. In all my dreams reveals that the speaker relives this traumatizing event every night, giving us a hint of how tragic this event was and how devastating. Helpless sight links back to the first line as Beggars are seen to be helpless.
Once again, this compares the soldiers to weak and hopeless people, who are commonly thought of as low class citizens. Owen also shows the dying mans desperation and weakness, again showing that soldiers are not tough, He plunges at me shows that the mans last hope for survival is the speaker, but the other soldiers can only watch helpless. This is particularly shocking for the reader as we can do nothing to help this tragedy, only read on into this atrocity, just like the other soldiers.
The last stanza of the poem is the most simile-packed and descriptive and it disgusts the reader by shows the aftermath of the gas attack. In the first line of the stanza a smothering dreams is used a link back to the previous paragraph as it explains, again, the speakers dreams which haunt him. Wagon that we flung him in, gives us an insight into the high death toll of the war as there have been so many deaths that the field medics and soldiers no longer care for their dead, and will show no compassion for their fallen friends.
Alliteration is used to describe the dead soldiers face as the letter W is repeated watch the white eyes writhing in his face. This shows the great pain the soldier faced when dying but also leads on to an interesting simile, His hanging face, like a devils sick of sin. This simile reveals that the war held so much death, destruction and corruption that even the devil is tired of it, this also contains more alliteration to emphasise this point, Hanging face is another subtle reference to death, to be hanged.
Another vivid description of death is come gargling from the froth corrupted lungs this uses an onomatopoeia to create an image of a limp body with a mouthful of blood, to further disgust the reader. The image of a torn up body is used in froth-corrupted, to depict someones lungs filled with, burning gas which is vile. This disgusts the reader which leads to sympathy for the dead. The war poem Dulce et Decorum Est includes many techniques that arise pity, sympathy, horror, shock and disgust in the reader by telling a story of a soldier who was caught in a gas attack and burned from the inside out.
Wilfred Owen very effectively, creates great sympathy for the soldiers and convinces the reader that war is a terrible thing and should be stopped, I, however do not agree with this, yes I feel great sympathy for the soldiers and their families but war is a human tradition now, a part of our blood. Aggression is imprinted in our DNA . There is a small percentage who would do anything to stop wars but they cannot. Man must triumph over man, be it to prove a point, convey an emotion, or simply to be better than the rest. While Owen successfully conveys sympathy for the soldier and their families he is fighting a battle that cannot be stopped.