Dulce et Decorum Est
All exceptional poetry displays a good use of figurative language, imagery, and diction. Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” is a powerful antiwar poem which takes place on a battlefield during World War I. Through dramatic use of imagery, metaphors, and diction, he clearly states his theme that war is terrible and horrific.
The use of compelling figurative language helps to reveal the reality of war. In the first line, “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,”(1) shows us that the troops are so tired that they can be compared to old beggars. Another great use of simile, “His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,”(20) suggests that his face is probably covered with blood which is the colour symbolizing the devil. A very powerful metaphor is the comparison of painful experiences of the troops to “[v]ile, incurable sores on innocent tongues.”(24) This metaphor emphasizes that the troops will never forget these horrific experiences. As you can see, Owen has used figurative language so effectively that the reader gets drawn into the poem.
The images drawn in this poem are so graphic that it could make readers feel sick. For example, in these lines: “If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood/ Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs/ Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud,”(21-23) shows us that so many men were brutally killed during this war. Also, when the gas bomb was dropped, “[s]omeone still yelling out and stumbling/ [a]nd flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…/ [h]e plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.”(11-12,16) These compelling lines indicate that men drowned helplessly in the toxic gasses. These graphic images are very disturbing but play a very effective role in the development of the poem.
Another tool in developing the effectiveness of the poem is the excellent use of diction. The word “blood-shod” explains how the troops have been on their feet for days without rest. Also, words like “guttering”, “choking”, and “drowning” shows us that the troops are suffering in extreme pain and misery. If you haven’t noticed, most of these words are examples of cacophony, which are words with harsh and discordant sounds. As this poem is about how harsh and terrible war is, Owen’s use of cacophony is very effective in generating the tone of the poem.
Is it really that sweet to die for one’s country? Is it really worth it? Isn’t family, love, and life much more important than proving one’s bravery? During World War II, Japanese troops volunteered for kamikaze missions because they considered it a privilege to die for one’s emperor. I think it’s utterly stupid. Is it not suicide? Owen uses good comparison, graphic imagery, and exceptional diction to persuade the reader that war is absolutely terrible and horrific. Owen also incorporates a unique use of rhyme and rhythm. It is written in iambic pentameter with a rhyme scheme of abab. This shows the cleverness of Owen’s style of writing. It is extremely difficult to write such excellent rhyming poem; but, then again Owen is naturally talented in choosing the right diction. This poem is extremely effective in showing the gruesome, heartless, and horrifying effects of war. I guess Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, or any other pro-war leaders should really read this poem. If they had any sympathy for their troops they would make an effort to put an end to war.