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Wilfred Owen, author of the disturbing poem "Dulce et Decorum Est", was a man firmly against the idea

of sending boys off to war with promises of glory. His opinion was that death in war is gruesome, undignified, and in no way sweet or becoming as is suggested by the quote referenced in the poem- Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. This opinion resonates throughout the piece, particularly through the use of figurative language and compelling imagery. The poem begins with a striking simile of troops on a march, "bent double, like old beggars under sacks" (line 1). From this very first line, the speaker makes such ingenuous comparisons as to paint a very powerful picture of the discomfort and lack of dignity experienced by the soldiers. "Knock-kneed, coughing like hags," the weary troops march away from the attacks of their enemy, and toward the hope of a rest almost beyond their capacity to envision (line 2). The thematic observation that war spares no one is expressed through slight parallelism"All went lame, all blind;" and the striking image of soldiers marching "blood-shod.Drunk with fatigue" would not be as powerful with milder imagery (lines 6-7). The vivid images continue into the second stanza with a shocking description of a gas attack from which one soldier does not escape. The speaker imparts this experience with a tone of horror, as if he is reliving it as he retells it. "In all my dreams before my helpless sight he plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning." (lines 1516). The triple description of the soldier's plight transitions noticeably from less to more specific, as if the speaker is so haunted that he cannot find the right words to describe it. The subtle difficulty in expressing such an event underscores the sentiment that there is nothing sweet or becoming about it. Through a strange juxtaposition of beautiful word composition and terrible subject matter, the reader is able to share in the speaker's experience. Through such phrases as "an ecstasy of fumbling," the sense of panic felt at the moment the gas shells are dropped is made clear. In the figurative language of stanza two are found many references to the indignity of combat- "Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time..And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime"(lines 10-12). The use of such words as "clumsy" and "flound'ring" communicates a feeling of disorder. The event is viewed by the speaker through the dim glasses of his mask and surrounded in a thick cloud of gas, "as under a green sea" (lines 13-14). The description of his obstructed sight also connotes a lack of understanding, a sort of unwilling indifference because all he can do is watch through a barrier of safety. The way in which the speaker relates to the reader changes slightly in the third stanza as he addresses his audience directly, creating a more personal connection and making the imagery all the more striking. The word choice becomes more forthright, indicating a peak in emotion as he no longer searches for just the right word to say. This is particularly evident in the comparison that occurs in lines 21-24 "If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, bitter as the cud of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues". The particularly graphic nature of his descriptions in stanza three emphasizes the idea of death in war being nothing short of gruesome. His comparison of the face of the dead soldier to that of a "devil's sick of sin" implies a sort of horror at the transformation from life to death (line 20). The poem ends with the assertion that "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" is a lie, and the disquieting story told is in itself enough to convince even the most stubborn. However, it is the use of striking comparisons and compelling metaphors that drives the author's point home. To take the stance that death for one's country is ghastly and unbecoming is a bold move, as it could easily come across as un-patriotic. The sentiment expressed by the author, however, is not against his country, but against the concept of war and what it does to those who are innocent. His observation is largely one of physical harm, but the reader is able to see the psychological harm done to the speaker through the event he has just retold. The poem is an evocative look at the damage done by war, and the lack of glory thereof.

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