16th February 2018

Dulce et Decorum Est

In this text lots of images are included, images of pain and sadness; I’ve decided to analyze some of them.

“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks […].” (Line 1) These first words make me imagine a man, exhausted, desperate for the loss of his friends, who is running through the trenches with all his heavy equipment bending down to not be seen by the enemy. I imagine his face, dirty and exhausted, maybe even wet because of the tears; he would probably like to stop fighting, but he knows that if he stops, he will die and the death of all his friends who died before him would be useless. This bending down could be imagined as the weight of people’s death over someone’s back. I’ll explain this: every time someone kills someone else, he becomes less human and more beasts which fight for their lives and they don’t stand, but they walk on their four paws; so every time someone kills someone else, he bends more and more, as if he were transforming himself into a beast.

“[…] Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! […]” (Line 9) This line makes me think of something not related to the World War I, but to the World War II, the holocaust. It makes me think to the gas chamber, to all those people who died inside those concentration camp. I’ve recently seen “The boy in the striped pajamas”, so the word “gas” makes me think of that, even if it’s not related to the World War I, it makes me think of those people who didn’t know what was happening; they were happy of having a shower, they didn’t know that the men next to them would have been the last people they had ever seen. This words make me feel really sad, because when I imagine something I usually imagine myself and my friends in that situation and imagining myself or people I love in the gas chamber really hurts me.

“[…] As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.[…]” (Line 14) Reading this I imagine Owen, looking at his friend, who, shot, was slowly falling, disappearing from his sight, drowning, lying down on the grass, on the green sea. This friend is the reason why he wrote this poem, he can’t accept that he died because once died, either you died defending your country or simply driving your car, you are dead and nothing can change it, so nothing can change what Owen is feeling because he knows he will never see his friend again. Sometimes I imagine what would happen if someone really close to me died, I imagine how I’d feel, everything I wanted to do with him, everything I wanted to tell him. When someone goes to war, he knows that he will, probably, lose his friends, but no one really understands what that means until it happens. Losing someone you love is the same as losing yourself; all what you’ve done with him is gone, such as him.

“[…] The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori.” (Lines 27-28) These are the last words of Owen’s poem and they are probably the most powerful. He says that it’s not worth to die for one’s country. Indeed, as I’ve already said; if you die you’re dead, no matter how and why you died and sometimes people die trying to save someone but, sometimes, their heroic action is vain so they died to help, but they didn’t. If I imagine a friend of mine dying to help me and then I failed in what I was trying to do, I would feel as if I killed him/her because they died for me and I didn’t honor his action.

Language techniques:

We are introduced to the poem by a simile which is a comparison made by using “like” or “as”: “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks […].” It is used by Owen to explain us the status of soldiers; if he had only said “bent double”, we would have probably not fully understood the pain and the suffering he and all the other soldiers are feeling. Instead, by using the simile, we can imagine the beggars under sacks and, therefore, we can imagine the soldiers.

What if, to make us understand better, the poet uses words to emphasize something? An example could be “deafening silence”, a silence can’t be deafening, but it lets us understand how powerful is the silence, it emphasizes the silence. This technique is called hyperbole and in the poem is used by Owen when he says “[…] Men marched asleep. […]” Of course men can’t march while they’re sleeping, but it emphasizes their tiredness by saying that and so we understand that they were really exhausted.

Sometimes poets and writers use symbolisms to say something, maybe to let us understand better or to make us feel something; for instance, Owen says “[…] As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. […]” Owen tells us that his friend his drowning under a green sea, but he isn’t really drowning, but he is disappearing from Owen’s sight, as if he were drowning. The green sea is the grass and the “drowning” is his friend who is disappearing from Owen’s sight. He could have easily said that his friend was disappearing from his sight lying on the grass, but it would have been much less powerful. When you drown you usually die, when you disappear from someone’s sight you usually don’t die. Personally, one of my biggest fears is to drown, so reading this makes me feel the pain; I wouldn’t have felt that if he hadn’t used those words.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Fred, I appreciate the personal reflections that you have included in this analysis. You also give a number of interpretations for some of the images/techniques. Continue to include the messages or lessons that the reader may learn from these references. Consider what the poet was trying to teach the reader- this would be a good way to complete some of your points.


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