What impression is created of war by Owen in his poem Dulce et Decorum Est?


Main Point 1 – Owen’s depiction of the powerlessness of their soldiers


Sub Point A     The soldiers being portrayed as physically weak and feeble in Dulce et Decorum Est

Evidence:         ‘knock-kneed’, ‘bent-double’, ‘old beggars’, ‘coughing like hags’, ‘all lame, all blind’

Explanation:    These words undermine the image of hearty and brave young soliders

·         ‘bent-double’ suggests old age and that the soldiers are almost collapsing under the strain of life in the trenches

·         ‘knock-kneed’ sounds diseased or arthritic and the onomatopoeic sound suggests fear

·         ‘beggars’ obviously live in horrible, poor conditions and it is as if they are begging for their lives

·         ‘coughing’ suggests diseased and hags are an unpleasant image of decrepit old women

·         ‘all lame’ lame is a term often applied to animals, suggesting that the soldiers are no better than animals


Evidence:         ‘trudge’ and ‘sludge’, the repetitive and monotonous ABAB rhyme scheme

Explanation:    The dull and heavy sounds seem to lack energy and any life

·         the guttural ‘udge’ sounds conjure an image of people’s feet being stuck in the mud and difficult to move

·         the guttural ‘u’ sound also seem animalistic and low in energy

·         the monotonous rhyme scheme also suggests there is no escape from this repetitive slog through mud


Evidence:         ‘we cursed through sludge’

Explanation:    The soldiers complain but carry on anyway

·         ‘cursed’ suggests that even though the soldiers are swearing about the horrible situation they carry on anyway

·         ‘cursed’ may also suggest the soldiers are cursed and do not have the power to break free of this spell


Sub Point B     The soldiers are portrayed as unable to help their friends during the gas attacks

Evidence:         ‘helpless sight’, ‘plunges at me guttering, choking, drowning.’

Explanation:    Being able to only stand by and watch their friends die suggests exactly how powerless they are

·         helpless’ is obviously powerless, but it’s as if the soldier is forced to see this again and again in his dreams. Not only was he powerless to help the first time but he is powerless to stop the dreams coming back too

·         ‘plunges’ suggests the desperation of the friend making it even more tragic that the solider couldn’t help

·         the triad of ‘guttering, choking, drowning’ suggests that this man did not die a quick death and instead slowly drowned. This slow death must have been horrific to watch and thus, even more tragic for the solider to witness


Sub Point C     The impression is created that the soldier cannot escape the horrific memories of the war

Evidence:         ‘in all my dreams’, ‘smothering dreams’

Explanation:    The dreams are made to seem overpowering, as if experiences in the war have permanently scarred the soldiers

·         The repetition of dreams suggest they recur again and again and are inescapable

·         The connotations of ‘smothering’ suggest the dreams are overwhelming, almost suffocating