Critical- closely analyze a section from one of the war poems. Try to explain how (what combinations of words, sounds, figures etc) the poem gains its force.

“He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie Dulce et Decorum Est
Pro patria mori” – Dulce Et Decorum Est; Wilfred Owen.

Owen writes during the war, daring to present its true horror whilst desperately dissuading others from being convinced to enter the fray. The second half of Dulce Et Decorum Est, dives instantly into a thorough depiction of the fatality of war. Like Joseph Conrad proposed with his preface to The Nigger of Narcissus studied, Owen employs his writing, his art, to present an unbridled truth to war. Owen contrasts previous poems that had detailed the honour of dying for your county, written in the period before the war, by the mere use of his last lines calling “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”, loosely translated to mean it’s a good thing to die for your country, a lie. His evidence to this is a graphic description of a soldier’s death, his use of sound and words help to build a grotesque picture clearly juxtaposing the “lie” of glorious death. A reader can hear the soldier’s limp body being flung onto the cart, can hear the cart hitting a bump delivering a jolt the riding soldier and can hear the soldier’s blood come gargling from his damaged lungs. The reader is helped to picture the painful situation with the help of the descriptive alliteration of “white eyes writhing” and “his hanging face”, the soldier is simultaneously contorted and limp with sheer pain. This all builds to discredit the lie passed to those enlisting that “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”.

First World War

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