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



Main Point 1: Powerlessness of soldiers, hopelessness of the situation,

Subpoint: Relief is distant. They have far to travel until they reach peace once more.


Evidence: Distant rest-Peace is far away and it will be hard to attain again. Haunting flares-Will always follow them wherever they go. They can not avoid the everlasting memory and are powerless against it. We turned our backs-trying to forget but the flares are too bright. Futile attempts. Men marched asleep-contrast. They are marching which is soldier like but failing as they are too exhausted. Their outward appearance is breaking down. In all my dreams-The memory is forever with him and he will always remember. Rhyming pattern ABAB- a regular alternating rhyme scheme, monotonous sequence. Impression of soldiers marching. Pace-Monotonous, soldiers marching without meaning or emotion. A shell of their former self. A list of the first and second lies creates a monotonous effect and emphasizes the fatigue and pity. The fact that the last sentence of the first stanza has only 9 syllables could suggest that the gas shells are closer to the soldiers than the peace they crave. Tension. Hanging-gives the idea of dying unexpectedly.


Subpoint: Horrific conditions implied by hopelessness of the situation. Exhaustion and the sense of defeat. War affects us both psychologically and physically.


Evidence: Old beggars- Impression of being pathetic, nothing more than animals, scorned and frowned upon and frail. Creates pathos and makes us feel sympathy for them. Begging for their lives. Coughing like hags- harshness and suffering. Hags are unpleasant images of decrepit old women-diseased and contagious therefore no one wants to have anything to do with them. Knock kneed-alliteration, sense of it being never ending. Harsh sounds, stressed/beaten down. Sounds diseased and arthritic and the onomatopoeic sound suggests fear. Bent double- Emphasized by being at the forefront. Sense of weakness. Harsh sounds. Limped on-Desperate, despair. They are willing to run away and escape from the tragedy they have entered even if it torments them. All went lame, all blind- treated like they have finally lost their humanity and are now regarded as mere animals. Hyperbole-war affects everyone, it doesn’t matter whether you are strong or not. Fumbling in the darkness, Stumbling and falling countless times. They are “groping” for their humanity and dignity but can no longer get it back. The monosyllables suggest that they have been stripped of everything they valued and are now left bare for everyone to see-they are exposed and can no longer hide from the memories-disabled. An impression of bluntness and dullness, Owen also uses simple words so that a general audience can understand the reality as it is. Blood shod-emphasised by caesura. Drenched with blood but they have also seen and dealt death. Their own blood, their shoe have been torn and they re walking on dead bodies. The blood will permanent stain their feet. Gruesome. Deaf even to the hoots-Melancholy, soft. An owl hoot signifies sadness, despair, tragic signifies the tragedy about to befall them-prescience. They do not notice the bombs anymore. They have heard so much and spent so much of their time among the noises that it has now become background noise. They are only intent on escaping not fighting any longer. Gas-shells- something dark, evil and sinister hidden inside a simple and harmless shell. Deception. Sibilance also suggests the sinister nature of the gas shells. A cunning death. Dropping softly behind- Impression of rain or snow falling. Peaceful. They can no longer tell danger and serenity apart. They are falling out of the sky like rain droplets and before they explode they are fascinating and mesmerizing to watch. Luring the soldiers closer. The calm before the storm.



Main Point 2: Absence of glory, patriotism and aggrandizement of war, no heroism or victory established

Subpoint: Owen depicts the soldiers as being downtrodden, defeated, humiliated and desperate. Going against the expectations of the people at home and what the propaganda as painted them as and of the reality


Evidence: Bent double: The soldiers are low.  Impression of defeated soldiers which usually we view as strong and valiant. Represents the loss of pride and dignity. Weak. There is no noble image and they are being compared to old beggars. Men marched asleep-going against expectations as men are meant to be strong and courageous. Contrast between marching: what they should be. And Limp: what they are. Trudge-they are not marching anymore. A slow walk a pathetic and desperate bid for escape. No enthusiasm present. Drunk with fatigue-a low activity and not what noble men should be ding. They want to forget everything that has occurred and that they have experienced. Old beggars: Simile, impression of being wretched and of homelessness. They no longer view anything as a safe haven or sanctuary. Poison gas- slow agonizing death with no glory present. Unexpected and it is not instantaneous like a bomb therefore the soldier will have to undergo a lot of suffering. There is no glorious charge into victory.


Subpoint: The slow and tortured death of the soldier is emphasized and described in detail.


Evidence: Drowning-one of the most terrifying and agonizing deaths. Choking-something is killing him. Something not tangible that is slowly taking away is life. He can not see the enemy even though it is already inside him, therefore he can not fight against it-futile attempts at resistance. Under a green sea: Secondary connotations of being treacherous and mysterious. Deceiving, unpredictable, calamity. The soldier will eventually be forgotten amid the countless waves of time, no remembrance. Yelling out- calling desperately for help but he is too late and death has now claimed him for His own. Man in fire: A slow death and also implies the fact that the soldiers can not put out the blaze inside him and that it will keep on burning until there is nothing left. Thick green light: unearthly. Can no longer see him as he is fading. Death is stifling him. Dim-His life is flickering out. Floundering-attempting to survive-basic instincts are taking over-no more reason he is now a bare man. Guttering-he is going out bit by bit like a candle. Enjambment of the third stanza suggests a slow death. An inescapable and ignominious death.



Main Point 3: The helplessness of the persona

Evidence: Plunges at me-revenge, as if he alone were responsible for the soldier’s death. He feels guilty and holds himself responsible-feeling of regret and great sadness. He could have made the choice to give him his gas mask but he did not take the chance. Calling for aid, he has been reduced to pleading and begging-pure terror of the horror that awaits him. Misty panes: Seen through a window. The soldier is cut off from the rest of the world and he can no longer be saved. An alien-unrecognisable. Unreachable and distant, isolated.  Someone still-feeling of dread that someone did not make it. Creates tension. Helpless sight-He can not do anything. A bystander watching a perverse gruesome pantomime that he has no control over.



Main Point 4: The panic and desperation of the soldiers when they realize they are under attack.

Evidence: Gas! Gas! Quick boys!-An order. Hurried. As if they have experienced it before. Panic and fear. Contrast to the first stanza where the pace is slow and calm whereas the second stanza gives the impression of being fast and panicked. The first stanza ends calmly while the second starts in a frenzy - it is never safe in war, the reality is much worse. Walking in from a bad dream into a genuine nightmare. The contrast also accentuates the shock. Exclamations dramatize the sentence and make the scene more intense and repetition emphasizes the reason of their desperation. The monosyllables add a fast pace and intensity. Ecstasy of fumbling-Confusion. A frenzy and an overpowering emotion has gripped them. Feelings so intense that they can not tell their separate emotions apart anymore. They have exceeded their limits and are left a mess. Exhilaration and fear. Fumbling-panic, clumsy. Clumsy helmets-Betraying them refusing to go on. As if everything and everyone was plotting against them and causing their deaths. Personification. Lack of preparation of the soldiers. Just in time- A very passionate relief is felt as all the soldiers think that they are all safe from the gases. But-feeling of dread that someone did not make it in time. Contrast they believed they made it but they did not. An illusion created by their corrupted minds. Stumbling-Blind and alone. Forgotten no hope left only despair and trepidation. Or lime-A sour taste, unpleasant. Everyone wants to get away from it.


Main Point 5: The persona feels betrayed and is disgusted by the propaganda and recruiters for making him believe the old Lie

Subpoint: He is disgusted that the propaganda has corrupted innocent boys into believing that war is glorious


Evidence: Quick boys- They are young men who have been caught in the war trap set up by the recruiters. To children- The children have been brought up to be in love with glory even if it is desperate. They will do anything for glory as they grew up in a society that aggrandized war. They want to go to war to prove themselves worthy of being men and thus will be decorated with being honourable and courageous and will be accepted by everyone, as is what they were taught. A chance to prove themselves. If they do not go they are considered as unpatriotic, cowards and children. However the desperate glory- also reflects the soldier’s desperation in the war. The author adopts a cynical tone-there is nothing glorious about glory. My friend- He is angry at the propaganda and generals for glorifying war and. Innocent tongues- They have done no wrong and yet they are at the receiving end of someone else’s evil sins. They are reaping the debt and are paying for other’s war crimes. They have not urged others to go to war and have told no lies about it either, they are innocent but will soon be corrupted. What they have experienced and done is incurable and is painful to endure “incurable sores”.


Subpoint:  He feels betrayed by the recruiters and propaganda and is criticizing them.


Evidence: My friend you- He feels betrayed and bitterly angry at the people who propagate the Lie. Sarcastic and ironic as friends are not meant to lead you to your death. Children- he does not want the propaganda to target the children and teach them the old Lie. He feels betrayed by the generals and recruiters as the war was not what they made it seem, wonderful and honourable. Children are easily convinced thus he feels like they are corrupting and manipulating the children and taking advantage. Human rights are ignored. The old Lie- capitalized. Importance is stressed and emphasized and Owen makes the word sound like a doom and a sin-that which brings down all men. The word is also singular therefore there is only one great Lie. The Lie is also old as it has been told and repeated countless times-Enjambment into the last sentence. Ends with a Latin proverb that a lot of people would know well. Either because they have heard it before or they themselves have told and believed in it. There is a feeling that Owen is addressing the reader directly and is either grieving for you or is angry. Everyone can relate to it and understand him. It has been perpetuated through the ages. Tricking men for thousands of years. It is in the language of the educated and not in the language of the people who are being tricked and are dying so it is unfamiliar to them and therefore they do not fully understand its full and ulterior meaning. The language of the liars. Going against expectations and instills a feeling of mistrust as the educated are supposed to lead us all not betray us. Lie- personified. Human. Has tricked all of these soldiers maliciously and is apathetic towards their deaths. You- Personal and close. He is talking directing to the generals and recruiters. A connection is established between Owen and the reader therefore you feel as if you were directly behind the corpse wagon and experiencing the events occurring. We are just watching a film and we are safe and comfortable while the soldiers are dying. You partially are responsible, a shift in focus. It separates us from them. We have a choice. We can stop believing the Lie and stop telling people to go to war. Also an accusation as these people, YOU, have ruined young lives and have lied.


Main Point 6: Absence of an honourable death and a sense of inescapability and inhumanity are present.

Subpoint: The soldier is treated like an animal and his death is torturous.


Evidence: Smothering- Stifling him. Slowly squeezing out his life. It is inescapable and inevitable. Wagon-a corpse wagon- he is no longer human. Flung him in- Inhuman treatment. Treating him like he is dead even though he is still alive. They know he will eventually die and now view him as devoid of soul. Creates pathos and lets us feel what to soldiers must have been through in order to act like this and be so indifferent. White eyes writhing- Unnatural, white eyes could indicate fear and terror at his impending doom. They also have connotations of being ghostlike and demonic as if the soldier was soulless and a devil. Writhing - snakish and wily connotations. Death is cunning. Torture, suffering is evident. His eyes are rolling and still attempting to search for an escape and freedom from death. Realm of madness. Devil’s sick of sin- He is compared to a devil saturated with sins, lies and treachery. The soldier is inhuman, he has passed into the void of ghosts from which he can not return. He is entering hell and becoming like a demon. Hear, jolt- Onomatopoeia. Harsh sounds reflect the poor and dangerous conditions in war. It does not sound smooth but rather sudden and unexpected. A sensory image, visual and auditory. This engages the reader and feels real. Gargling-gargling his own blood. Disgusting image. He is killing himself. Bitter irony, as blood is supposed to keep him alive and yet it is his undoing. Ignoble death. Contrast between what is believed to be true and the reality, similar to the concept of war. A blood red spring, gushing out of his mouth and impossible to stem. A very powerful word and a sense of sickness and a horrifying experience, springs are supposed to represent birth not death. Cancer- painful and slow death. Enjambment between 5 and 6 suggests the longevity of the death. Bitter- Vile taste. Strong imagery. Straight forward and stressed word thus gives it a sense of bluntness. Dulce et decorum est - Harsh consonants- reflects everything the soldier has experienced. A contrast between what is believed as the words would be expected to be soft and gentle and not harsh. Pro patria mori- short sentence- idea of being cut off early. Soldiers can die anytime in war. A finality. Mori- death. Ending of the soldier’s life and everything Owen believed in.


Subpoint: The persona can not escape from his memories.


Evidence: Smothering dreams- overwhelming and killing him. Corroding his mentality. The soldiers can’t escape war, the persona can’t escape memories. All my dreams- It will forever haunt him and he will always remember. Following him everywhere. Cancer- There is no reprieve for the horrors endured. Once you are fighting there is no turning back. A bleak prospect of death. Hopeless.