THE DEATH OF PATRIOTISM: ANALYSIS OF “DULCE ET DECORUM EST”.
Wilfred Owen in his poem “Dulce et Decorum est” presents his experience with gas attack and helpless soldiers at the forefront of World War I as results of gas attacks. The poem presents his experience in four paragraphs which shows the state of soldiers before and during gas attack and them the after tragedy and trauma faces by survivors. The author speak through the poem with word choice and writing techniques showing how it is rather foolish to claim that dying for your country is patriotic (Griffith George, 37-39).
Owen kicks off the poem showing the level of distress this soldier where always in using words like ” Knock-kneed, coughing like hags”, he further used words such as “Men marched asleep,” to reiterate the level of dismay this soldier where in. “Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots” (lines 7,8), then a soldier shouted Gas!, Gas! (line 9). Owen creates an image of state in which the soldier where in before the men went into “ecstasy of fumbling” to wear their mask to before going into the “green sea”. This green sea depicts the point of mass death of his comrades as they suffocated as a result of gas attacks as he watched sorrowfully but rather helplessly. The picture of dying soldier that Owen paints with the poem shows that it is an image that will forever dwell in his mind, line 16 (“plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning”)shows he feels he is to blamed for the death of his comrades; this is like a feeling of living a haunted house (Griffith George, 37-39).
Owen shares his experience watching a mass of death bodies as he matched behind wagon full of death people. His level emotional trauma and was well elaborated as he poses a question to the reader if this is considered patriotism to die a hero or it is rather foolish to consider dying for your country as “Orgasm of one’s love for his nation”.
Though it appears a question; “Lie: Dulce et decorum est, Pro patria mori” which translates as “It is sweet and right to die for your country”, in the last stanza. The author already answers the question on behalf of the reader as he paints a picture to sway the mind of the reader in the direction to prevent any one t believe that dying for your nation is noble, by presenting the dangers of blind patriotism
This poem is so elaborate, with just a single reading immediately paints a vivid and real image, as the image comes alive in the mind of the reader (Griffith, George, 37-39). Owen chooses words carefully, with a clear and concise combination of similes, hyperbole and metaphor and use of appropriate and perfect graphic language to paint a perfect picture, which the reader sees it as the Owen saw it.
Owen uses word in right manner; “we cursed through sludge” (line 2), presenting 2 or more activities in a single image. He images a combination of the frustration of the soldiers as the clawed through the battlefield in agony and the doubt of their fate. Owen used the phrase “limped on, blood-shod” to suffering soldiers with no shoes and the condition of their feet. Owen uses vivid language for example “the white eyes writhing in his face” (line 19), “the blood/ Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs” (lines 21, 22), to explain suffering of soldiers as they where poison; Owen also used Comparative phrases “like old beggars under sacks” (line 1). Other vivid imaging language use where “floundering like a man in fire or lime” (line 12); “like a devil’s sick of sin” (line 20). These phrases paint a horrible imagination of what the soldiers went through. The use of vivid language aims to affirm the authors view on Dulce et decorum est meaning, “it is sweet and proper,”. Owen disapproval and sorrow is shown through his choice of words and tone (Griffith George).
In the last line, Owen compares the agony faced by soldier to cancer and other painful deathly diseases, as they drown in green sea, in no man’s land (Stallworthy Jon). The rather scary scene is aimed to persuade the young to back off against joining war with desire and excitement under the pretext of patriotism. The poem ends with the statement ” My friend, you would not tell with such zest”, ” To children for some desperate glory, The old lie Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori”, “It is sweet and right to die for your country”, The poem wish to warn against blind patriotism.
Griffith, George V. “Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est.'” Explicator 41, no. 3 (1983): 37-39
Hibberd, Dominic. Owen the Poet. Basingstoke, England: Macmillan, 1986.
Stallworthy, Jon. Wilfred Owen. London: Oxford University Press, 1974.