“War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. ” War is done by trust in power; one cannot emphasize that enough. When one gives in to the wrath of the government in charge of producing such wars, it is the end for them, and the end for their families.
It is the predominant virus that breaks apart humanity; it wiggles itself under the coats of governments and expands its dark forces upon innocent lives. It is the destruction but yet the mockery of old men in suits looking down at a war map deciding which young man will set out first to be the target of death. “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” (It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country) is the lie that Wilfred Owen so honorably is set out to destroy in his poem “Dulce et Decorum est.
When it comes to war, the governing estates wish to get as many soldiers to show up to a war as possible; by presenting such a Service Mark as the old Latin quote, they end up convincing young men and women to join the army in order to battle against countries and die while trying to survive. By using formalist elements throughout the work, Owen is able to describe the realistic brutalities of war and destroy any reason that is presented in the old Latin quote. Due to Owen’s personal experience at a trench, there is much description to what he might have gone through.
An effective way to capture the readers attention is to directly speak to them – Owen does that by bringing in his perception of what does happen in the midst of a war. He begins in the first stanza by placing himself with his mates in a situation such as: “bent double, like old beggars under sacks, knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, till on the haunting flares we turned our backs, and towards our distant rest began to trudge… ” (Owen 120) In doing so, he places himself in that position with other men that he knew, making it a more personal point of view.
Owen continues by introducing the path of the struggling men walking back to the base after an interview with chaos. They are in the middle of a battle. “Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, but limped on, blood-shod, all went lame, all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots of gas-shells dropping softly behind… ” (Owen 120) By using vivid imagery, it is as if Owen was placing obscene actions of war in a setting to where the consummation of evil is found: in fury.
When he mentions the men limping with blood-shod feet, it is a dehumanizing image where the men, like horses, are physically and mentally crushed. The focused tone is that of the ironical patriotism. It is a morbid and provocative statement that kills the purpose of patriotism by making innocent lives of young men and women suffer for a mediocre cause such as the need for power and expansion. It is the Latin lie that was previously mentioned that captivates audiences to join the army – but it is the sad truth of fake optimism.
In the last stanza, Owen claims by using extended imagery that if one experiences the horrors of war, they will not come back to life to tell the next young person lining up to sign for the army to tell them that it is not worth their lives. In order to make the poem effective with its protruding message, diction is carefully chosen. Owen chooses words like “fumbling, fitting, yelling, stumbling, drowning, choking, smothering, writhing, gargling, etc… ” that describe action to personify war. By doing so, he brings in a more powerful image to the disturbance of evil.
Also by using imagery that compares to the sickliest of things imaginable, he brings in a simile of: “his hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sinning. ” (Owen 120) When is a devil sick of sinning? It is the ultimate irony that is placed within the setting of the poem. If evil is sick of doing what its best at, then the brutality of war would be too much for one to handle. In all, Wilfred Owen’s poem, “Dulce et Decorum est”, reinforces the truth of a death defying world battle by using different formal elements to reproduce the actual affects of war upon Owen himself.
To believe in the old saying, “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” is to die for an unreasonable cause. There will be no day where one would be able to describe the visions that men have come so close to seeing, and developing those visions into a sugar-coded world for their families to hear. No father will tell their son to join the army after seeing so much pain, agony and frustration fill the lungs of the battling men.