War usually is a bloody series of battles between 2 or more factions. Usually it is between tribes or countries. In Dulce et Decorum, Wilfred Owen describes war as being deadly, very bloody and disgusting where soldiers are innocently killed, ripped apart and treated like beggars without hope or worth. However, during wars, countries generally tell its people something it is an honor or privilege to die for your country. That is what ‘Dulce et decorum et pro patria mori’ means. However, in Owen’s poem he argues that in reality it is not heroism, in fact it is disgusting and sometimes makes you hate your country.
In stanza 1, Owen gives an impression that war makes the soldiers are exhausted and hag-like. “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks”. In ‘Bent double’, Owen creates an impression that joining the war causes great amount of fatigue and exhaust from working in the war; bored and working until the bodies of the soldiers are twisted and contorted, making their experience seem completely different from the sorts of marching that we usually see in military parades. It is comparable to beggars who have terrible health and sickly bodies and old hags, or women who are cramped up and wrinkled with curved backs, not proud, glorious soldiers marching in a much organized fashion. This creates the impression that war is boring and exhausting, working like slaves all day with bags so huge that it appears that you are under the bag, not that the bag is over you. They are abnormally deformed with their knees close together and their ankles far apart.
In stanza 1 again, Owen gives an impression that war was disappointing and makes the soldier appear drunk, or even like zombies from the exhaust and continues fight to survive, even without a gas bomb or a battle, they are zombie-like. “Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots that of disappointed shells that dropped behind,” ‘Drunk’ shows that they were in a terrible physical state that they looked drunk, not able to walk, looking mad and crazy. ‘Fatigue’ shows that it’s not caused by too much alcohol, but it is caused by too much, or an overdose of work they have done, they are weary and tired they are sick or drunk-like, and this might even be before they even started a battle or survived a gas bomb. ‘Deaf to the hoots’ further shows how handicapped they are from war, they lose their senses. ‘Hoots’ shows that the shells are useless and they became gentle like owls, this might be because they are used to the sound of shells now it is like background noise for them. Also ‘disappointing’ might suggest that the bombs not only are useless for the enemies but are disappointing the soldiers because they want the shells to hit them, maybe to end their misery and torture to make them rest eternally. This gives an impression that war is hopeless and makes soldiers want to die and makes them worn-out by work.
In stanza 2, Owen gives an impression that war is clumsy and maybe slow or amateur to survive. “GAS! Gas! Quick, boys! – an ecstasy of fumbling, fitting the clumsy helmets just in time”. The ‘GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!’ shows shock and the repetition of the shock. Showing the panic and confusion in war. GAS is in capitals to show the yell of warning and panic, with an exclamation mark to give maximum shocks and surprise. It is repeated in exclamation marks to convey how much time it took them to realize, from all the confusion and chaos. ‘An ecstasy of fumbling, fitting the clumsy helmets just in time’. ‘Ecstasy’ shows how much chaos there was by comparing it to a drug effect, before they were as if drunk and now they appear to be drugged (overflowing with emotions) from all the confusion and disorganization of the soldiers drained of strength. ‘Fumbling’ and ‘fitting’ have an alliteration with the letter F that makes the reader think of fear subliminally. This gives an impression that war was disorganized and just a constant battle to stop yourself from being the victim of the survival series.
In the 2nd stanza, Owen conveys that soldiers die horribly slowly and devil-like. It also shows the helplessness of watching the soldiers die in disgusting, melting-like ways. “Floundering like a man in fire or lime”. ‘Floundering’ shows how bad the struggle to survive is by comparing it to a struggling fish trying to live on land, jumping around helplessly, this is like the man is burning helplessly, plunging about without hope. ‘Fire’ or ‘lime’ shows how bad the gas was, burning him like acid or fire from the inside. Comparing it to the most torturous thing people can imagine experiencing. This creates an impression that war is terribly disgusting and VERY painful.
In the 3rd stanza it shows how war is as bad as your eye can see or even imagine, Owen compares the scene of the dying man slowly from the gas to the worst of nightmares that haunt you every night. “In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunged at me guttering, choking, drowning”. Because the trio of verbs are verbs hat end in –ing, it gives the sense that the action is in the present tense. The soldiers dies over and over in his dream, making the suffering of wartime casualties never-ending. Also these three verbs (‘guttering, chocking, drowning’) are brutal, merciless verbs. He ‘plunged’ at him shows how he is struggling like a fish but is helpless and the narrator cannot help him while he watching him slowly get murdered by the fire+lime-like gas, ‘my helpless sight’.
Owen described how disgusting war and death is and then sarcastically warns the reader that war is not like what children and teenagers think it is but that is the impression the country gives to them that is but an old lie. ‘ My friend, you would not tell with such high zest The old lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.’ He says ‘my friend’ talking to the reader, this is the reality of war, it is all death, however ‘my friend’ if you still didn’t understand it is complete opposite of the lies the countries say to encourage you to join the war. In a sarcastic tone, showing that it is obvious that it is not what children and teenagers think as all glory and victory and pride. With great enthusiasm and energy, you would not tell them confidently that it is sweet and right to die for your country because in the inside you know you are wrong.
In the poem, Owen clearly gives an impression and explains the reality of war of being terrible by describing the gruesomeness and the state in which the soldiers try to survive, wasting their lives innocently. He is showing how it is not at all like what the people think and encourage the children to go to war. All that about glory and right and sweetness to DIE for your country is nothing but lies to persuade you into war by tricking you into thinking it is all energy and victory. After coming back from war, your whole life is changed, you have seen the worst a human can see, IF you come back properly, you would not tell the children, ‘it is nice and sweet to die for your country’, with big enthusiasm and pride, but by knowing in heart that it is an lie.