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English Literature

Sample Question

What might you want to say about the poet's presentation of war in the poem Dulce Et Decorum Est? Briefly note down some points that you would want to include in your essay, then compare your ideas with those in our sample answer on the next page.

Sample Answer

  • War transforms soldiers, breaking them physically and mentally: 'Bent double' 'Knock-kneed'. Rather than glorious men, Owen presents the soldiers as weakened old 'hags'.
  • The experience of war is something no soldier can escape: 'In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, / He plunges at me'.
  • The effect of gas used in World War One is communicated to the reader through Owen's use of verbs linked to death by a lack of oxygen: 'guttering, choking, drowning', 'smothering'.
  • Owen offers the reader very graphic imagery associated with suffering, aiming to present the truth about the war experience, arguably arising from his first-hand experience of war.
  • Owen presents the soldiers as victims who have been betrayed by those who encouraged them to go to war. He uses words such as 'innocent' and 'children' to reinforce his positive attitude to the soldiers.
  • Owen is bitter about war and the encouragement given to go to war. He angrily refers to 'The old Lie' that dying for your country is sweet and honourable.
  • The detailed description of a soldier dying as a result of gas attack is intended to make the reader feel discomfort, forcing him or her to confront the reality of war, something which is far from honourable or sweet.

Back to Wilfred Owen: Dulce Et Decorum Est index

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