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“It Is Sweet and Right”
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Irony is used to introduce and eventually wrap up the whole poem. The speaker ironically gives a sweet and encouraging title to the poem but contrasts it with the message he conveys to the public. He calls it “Dulce Et Decorum Est”, which is a Latin phrase that means “It is sweet and right” (DeMaria & Brown, 2007, p. 223). It is among the quotes that were commonly used at the beginning of the war to so as to encourage patriotism especially among the youths. Owen uses it as though to support it only to disapprove it in the end. He begins the poem describing the terrible looks of the soldiers, picturing them as outstripped and tired as they come from the war to their hiding places (Owen, Ln. 8). He then goes ahead into describing the panic demonstrated by the soldiers as the gas is fired and eventually the death of one soldier. All this is meant to show how miserable it is to be on the fore front during war, yet at a quick look of the poem one sees the title and thinks that it is sweet to fight for one’s country. Irony is also seen when these men are attacked with gas and instead of panicking in horror, we are told that they delight as they grab their masks. Certainly, rationale people do not delight in attack, thus Owen uses the word “ecstasy” ironically (Owen, Ln. 9). Last is rhyme, the repetition of last consonants. Alternating lines have similar last consonants in all the stanzas. For example, lines 1 and 3 end with sacks and backs respectively while lines 2 and 4 end with sludge and trudge respectively (Owen, Ln. 1-4). Owen successfully uses imagery as well. He pictures the soldiers as double bent both due to the weight they are carrying and the weight of the duties as well. He also describes them as “Knock-kneed” to mean that their legs are knocking each other like old men when they walk; that they are “coughing like hags” (Owen, Ln.1-2).
The tone in this stanza is ironical describes the soldiers place, as tired, full of fatigue, sleepy, deaf, walking bare footed and so on. Also, as soldiers, they are expected not to give up in fighting; however when the rockets are fired on their side, they turn their backs and head to the camp (Owen, Ln. 2). This is ironical since it contrasts the title of the poem which suggests that fighting is sweet.
In the second stanza, simile has also been used to describe the soldier who had inhaled the gas as “floundering like a man in fire” (Owen, Ln. 12). Metaphor in this stanza has been used to describe the situation in which the dying soldier is in. As this soldier is suffocating in the poisonous gas, Owen uses metaphor to tell as that he is drowning under the green sea to imply that he is struggle for breath in this fatal gas (Owen, Ln.14). Rhyme is also used in this stanza. Alternating lines have same finishing consonant sounds. For example, lines nine and eleven end in fumbling and stumbling while line ten and line twelve end in time and lime respectively (Owen, Ln. 9-12). Imagery is also used in this stanza to describe the commotion after the gas has been fired up to when the soldier falls helplessly (Owen, Ln. 9-14). The tone is this stanza is a sad one as Owen describes the defeat and the consequences that befall one of them.
In the third stanza, the speaker uses simile to liken the face of the dying soldier with that of the devil when he says that “hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin” (Owen, Ln.20). Alliteration, a literal device which brings about the repetition of the first consonant sounds has also been used though not to a greater extent. Consonant sounds repeat in line 18 and 19 where the writer uses words like “wagon….watch…white….and writhing” (Owen, Ln. 18-19). Rhyme in this stanza appears as is in the first and second stanza. Lines twenty-one and twenty-three end in blood and cud while line twenty-two and twenty-four end in lungs and tongues respectively (Owen, Ln. 21-24). Metaphor is also used in this stanza. Contrary to what the old saying suggests that being patriotic to the point of death is sweet (Owen, Ln. 28), Owen tries to show that nothing has remained of these soldiers. Using imagery, he also gives as a picture of how the soldier slowly dies after inhaling the gas. How his eyes sink in his face as his blood comes from the mouth (Owen, Ln. 19-20). All these descriptions are given so as to help the reader to visualize the situation. The tone in this stanza is sad as the poem conclude with the death of one of them.
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