Poem Review: Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen

I liked this poem because it was a taste of something real, something that does not wish to hide the truth like in most fairytales that parents tell their children. It tells of the horrendousness of war, not of the glory of battle, but the brutality of it all. In the beginning it tells of the unrest of the men as they trudged along through the battlefield, forcing themselves to continue on. You could tell how exhausted the men were as they routinely dragged forward in want of rest and normalcy, except for them, this has become their everyday existence. They were desensitized by their surroundings because that was all they had left, the dirt and mud the only company, and in want of human companionship. The writer depicted them as beggars for they had nothing and for them they seemed to be going nowhere, just wandering as what would seem to them as just aimlessness; no direction, no meaning just trudging along. They weren’t people anymore, they were soldiers, just numbers, not men anymore, just forever marching, getting picked off: one by one.

The poem intensifies as you can feel the tension rise as gas-shells are thrown in what seemed every direction and men scrambled to save themselves as they couldn’t, in the heat of the moment, remember why they were there and what was going on, all they knew was that they were in danger and their survival instincts would kick in to protect themselves. I can’t even imagine the misery these men must have been feeling, or did they even have time or the energy to feel miserable? Today we all get desensitized to horrific deaths in movies and we shrug it off or think it cool, but just imagine the helplessness of the men who are right in the middle of this war, there are no words to convey what those men really went through. We later discover that one of the men did not fully protect himself from the gas in time; he is engulfed in the gas and the writer describes it as drowning, and I suppose that is what it must feel like, suffocating in the gas that’s filling your lungs as you try to gasp for fresh air, and the screams and tears as you realize what is happening to you; you are dying.

The writer describes the man dying in gruesome detail, almost making you believe that this horrible death is happening in slow motion, which makes it worse. He calls this gruesome way of death the “devil’s sick of sin”, as if he is admitting that all this horrendousness is due to the sin of the world. As he goes on describing this man dying, you could tell just how horrific it really was; it was bad enough just reading, imagine experiencing it, either watching or being the dying person yourself, being suffocated in slow-motion, knowing that you are slowly dying; perhaps wishing that you would die faster. After he horrifies you with this very realistic view of war and death, the writer gets very serious and explains that we should not be telling our children that it is glorious and honorable to go to war for their country. War may be a thing that has to happen if peace cannot be attained, but that doesn’t mean we should prevail upon to tell stories of great triumphs and victories of killing other human beings. War is not a fun or a pleasant thing, and it should never be said that it is. War is the “devil’s sick of sin”.


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