Dulce Et Decorum Est

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Reality “Dulce et Decorum Est,” an anti-war poem by Wilfred Owen, ( ) conveys a strong meaning and persuasive argument. The anti-war theme and serious tone is extremely effective at portraying war as horrid and devastating. Upon my initial reading of this poem I felt overpowered by blood, guts and death. Although my reaction hasn’t changed much through numerous readings, my emotional reaction becomes more intense with each reading. This poem makes me feel like I am right there watching the soldier who cannot fasten his mask fast enough and suffers the full effects of deadly gas. This poem also makes me look beyond the death and question the pain inflicted on the mothers who kissed their sons goodbye as they went to defend their country. I imagine the mother receiving word her son has died and is told how noble and patriotic his death was. In his last moments, the soldier and his family become victims of “The old lie” (610). The precise dictation, vivid comparisons and graphic imagery are the three major elements that influenced my reaction to this poem. Through the precise dictation, I could clearly understand what the author is saying. Words like “guttering”, “choking”, and “drowning” jumped out at me and made my body shiver (610). Other words like “writhing” and “froth-corrupted” made me understand just how tragic war is. Not only do these words show how this man is suffering, but also they show precisely the level of pain and torment this man must endure. The fact that the gassed man was “flung” into the wagon convinced me that it is not “sweet” nor “fitting to die for one’s country” (610). The author’s use of dictation was extremely effective in convincing me of just tragic and pointless war is. In addition to dictation, the author’s use of metaphor and similes also influenced my reaction to this poem. In the first line the author describes the troops as being “Bent double, like beggars under sacks”(610). This simile expresses the condition of the men and reinforces the hopelessness they feel. The author’s comparison of the dyeing man’s “hanging face” to a “devil’s sick of sin” dramatizes just how corrupt it all seems. The most powerful simile is when the author compares the sound of the gassed man gurgling blood in is lungs as “obscene as cancer” (610). The most effective metaphor is the “vile, incurable sores” that the author compares to the troop’s memories. This metaphor illustrates how the troops will never forget this experience. This pain will forever be with them. The author clears up any misconception that war is noble and convinces me that his beliefs are true. More effectively than metaphors and similes, the graphic imagery that this poem explodes with drastically influenced my reaction to this poem. Some of the images in this poem nearly made me feel nauseas. The images I experienced in the readings of this poem could never be forgotten, especially when I take my three sons to register with Selective Services. My emotional and physical reaction reinforces how effective the author’s use of imagery is in this poem. The image of the troops “drunk with fatigue” and deaf to the “gas-shells dropping softly behind” is a chilling image (610). As someone yells “Gas” it is an “ecstasy of fumbling” and one is still “flound’ring like a man on fire” (610). Through the “thick green light, as under a sea” the speaker sees the man drowning and describes the “gargling from the forth-corrupted lungs” (610). Each of these images are disturbing to think about, but exposes the reality of war. These images made me feel disgusted at what war is capable of. The author ties this poem together in the last line. In Latin, the phrase “Dulce et decorum est” means “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country”(610). The author calls the phrase “the big lie” (610). Although there are countless elements, dictation, vivid comparisons and imagery, are the elements that persuaded and moved me emotionally and intellectually. Even though I recognize deadly gasses are generally not used in war anymore, I will never react the same to the billboards or commercials saying, “ Be all you can be in the Army”.

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