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“Dulce Et Decorum Est”

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The world of literature entails different types of styles and elements that need to be intergraded into the work so as to bring the intended meaning to the audience. Different authors have adopted these writing styles and literal devices that are appropriate with their works. Poetry being one of the oldest literal works has the most complicated in terms of the elements and devices used as a result most of the elements have to be applied for the poem to look interesting and entertaining to the reader. The purpose of this work is to paraphrase the poem “Dulce Et Decorum Est”, establish who its speaker is, determine the setting in which it was written and the event that it commemorates. The work will also identify the tone and analyze the elements and devices used in each and every stanza.

The poem “Dulce Et Decorum Est”, describes the events that take place in the battle field during the First World War where the speaker was one of the frontline soldiers. In the first stanza, there are soldiers who look tired and are worn out like beggars and coughing. They are walking towards their enemy’s territory as though ready to fight. In the third line, flares are thrown and the soldiers turn and they march towards their camp. In the fourth line, they are sleepy, tired and limping barefooted. They are deaf to the noise made by these flares which within no time start dropping behind them (Owen, Ln. 1-8).

In the second stanza, the flares have reached them and one of them shouts “Gas! Gas!” (Owen, Ln. 9). All of them struggle to put on their gas proof masks. In line ten, one of them is still mixed in the commotion and he takes relatively longer to put on his mask. He consequently lost in the gas and he chocks and drowns in the sea of the green gas. He leans on the speaker as he helplessly watches him fall (Owen, Ln. 9-16).  

In the last stanza, the speaker says that this is a dream then one could definitely escape. The soldier who has inhaled the poisonous gas has been put in a wagon and they watch him as his eyes struggle in his face. His face is hanging and blood from the lungs is coming out through the mouth with a lot of noise at every jerk. This effect of the gas is as severe as that of canceer and untreatable sores are seen on the soldier’s tongue. In line twenty-five, the speaker warns the reader not to insight young people to fight for glory of a desperate nation. In line twenty-seven and twenty eight he says “Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori” an old lie that says fighting for one’s country is sweet (Owen, Ln. 17-28).       

The author and speaker of the poem is Wilfred Owen. According to White (1967), Owen was born in the year 1893, he fought in the First World War that occurred between 1914 and 1918, and died just a week after the war was concluded. He is a soldier and therefore has participated fully in the war. As a result, he has first hand information and experience about the war. He therefore writes a powerful description about the harsh conditions that the soldiers experience during the war as he disapproves the old saying that it is an honor to fight and die in battle for the sake of your country. It is from the descriptions he gives that it becomes clear that the setting of the poem is in the battle field.  He thus writes this poem to commemorate the end of the First World War.

To convey this massage to his audience, Owen uses several literal elements and devices such as figures of speech, irony, imagery, rhyme and alliteration among others. Some of the figures of speech he uses include; simile, metaphor, hyperbole and irony. In the first stanza, Owen uses simile to liken the soldiers to beggars and hags saying that his face look like the devil’s. They are “Bent double, like old beggars under sack” (Owen, Ln. 1), and “coughing like hags” (Owen, Ln.2). Metaphor has also been used in this stanza. The author describes the soldiers’ feet as full of blood since they have lost their boots. They are now walking barefooted in swamps of blood. He says that many of them have lost their boots but they limp on, in blood-shod (Owen, Ln. 5-6). This simply implies that even though they lack boots on their feet, the shod of blood is think enough to protect them just like the boots do. He also compares the fumes of the gas with the sea. Hyperbole, which is a figure of speech that shows exaggeration, has also been used. Owen says that the soldiers have become deaf to an extent that they can not hear the noise produced by the flares (Owen, Ln.7). They are limping and blind, they are “drunk with fatigue” (Owen, Ln. 6-7), he uses these words to show the degree to which these men have been worn out after the fight. He exaggerates the whole scene so as to bring his stand against the old lie that dying for one’s country is sweet.

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