2.4 – “Dulce et Decorum est”
Dulce et Decorum est
“It is sweet and fitting to die for ones country”
“Dulce et Decorum est”, written by Wilfred Owen utilises language techniques to create an image for the reader about”the great war”. The reader will realise the atrocity of war through the way Owen conveys how integrity and patriotism shouldn’t be idolised as a beautiful thing. Wilfred Owen was a soldier in World War I, he created poetry to express his anger about the cruelty and waste of war while at the Western Front. His poems became famous for having some of the most poignant english from the war.
In the line, ‘Innocent tongues”, symbolism is utilised to portray the idea that technically soldiers are no longer innocent. They have the blood of fathers, brothers and sons on their hands. However the concept of innocence must be challenged in times of war. Men enlisted to support and protect their country, families and the future, many finding this as a patriotic quality they wanted to obtain which was hugely accepted in society. Yet this is where Owen wants the reader to realise society shouldn’t glorify patriotism . “Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues”, is used to signify the mustard gas and the suffering the soldiers experienced while facing adversity at the front line. As they fought off the enemy, this is where we question do soldiers remain innocent and do the people at home believe their soldiers are despite their experiences? We must realise Owen is trying to show us that society at home was so fixated on the importance of the vigorous support for their country they failed to understand the adversity at the front line. Not much thought was put in to the harsh reality that a huge part of the human race had to die in order for their country to win, including their own.
These men may have had innocence going in to the war, however by the end all they have left of innocence is on their tongues. The one thing they could control going in to the aftermath of world war I. They can’t take back who they killed in order to survive, but they can communicate the atrocity of war to the people at home who were clueless through the use of their mouths.
Symbolism was applied again to the phrase “old lie”, which represents the concept that it is “sweet and fitting to die for ones country”. Yet again Owen is proving how society became brainwashed with the idea of patriotism. The “old lie” that it is sweet and fitting to die for ones country is told to young innocent children allowing patriotism to become stronger within society. This can happen by “the old lie” being told to children continuing to be passed through generations in the hope for war to be avoided.
Innocence has been moderately taken away from young children due to the enforcement of fighting. Owen uses the line “To children ardent for some desperate glory”, to make the reader realise children are being brought up in a society that depends on patriotism, heroism and glory to bring them happiness. Unlike today we depend on social media which determines how we feel or who we are in society. Children are growing up fixated by the idea of glory that it makes a ripple affect in society. Owen allows the reader the opportunity to associate the “old lie” to “innocent tongues”. The tongue is a powerful, personal aspect capable of allowing the “old lie” to be communicated passed through society to avoid this ripple affect.
The use of simile in the line, “bent down like old beggars under sacks” allows the reader to affiliate these characteristics to soldiers at the front line. Owen likens the solider’s to “beggars” which can suggest old men, they are dirty, stumbling along under the weight of their large packs. Soldiers losing sight of hope and persistence. What were once young soldiers eager to explore the world, are now growing old as part of the war. Owen is yet again illustrating the theme of patriotism and how unrealistic it is for society to create this philosophy of honour and glory. In fact war is so horrific and inhumane for soldiers both mentally and physically that the intention of war is lost. The extremity of what these men experience make war not glorious or honourable as there is no limit of how inhumane everyones actions become.
From this poem, “Dulce et Decorum est”, Owen has immensely challenged innocence and society during war times. He has utilised constructive language features mainly through symbolism to illustrate how different society was during World War I. Glory, integrity and heroism consumed civilians and drove the war to become such a honour. World War I was a hostility of suffering and struggle for the world where somewhere along the line it became a facade of honour. Wilfred Owen created poetry that he sent back to his mother directing his anger not at the opposition but the people back in England. He focused his ideas of how patriotism was not being understood by people at home, the harsh reality of war was not made apparent until soldiers returned, and by then it was too late. Owen focuses his poems around how the purpose of war was lost amongst the fixation of glory. Wilfred Owen has become known as “the poet from world war I” through his poems that challenged society.
“All a poet can do today is warn” – Wilfred Owen