Dulce Et Decorum Est Critical Essay Notes

Given how critical a gas attack was, it is chilling that Owen depicts soldiers ‘fumbling’ l.9 with their equipment.

Most get their masks on only ‘just in time’ but a nameless ‘someone’ has succumbed to the attack and it is his sufferings which will dominate the rest of the poem, as he cries out, stumbles and struggles to breathe.

The way in which he addresses as ‘My friend’ those with whom he so strongly disagrees is ironic.

The poem consists of four stanzas of various lengths.

In the short third stanza, the regularity of l.15 is overturned by the extra syllables and different metres of l.16 – as if the horrific sight is too overwhelming to be constrained by a regular poetic form.

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For stanza four Owen uses additional beats to emphasise the particular horror of lines 20 and 24, echoing the pattern of stanza two. He needs us, through the uncomfortable beat associated with the similes, to hear and feel the pain.

Then he moves into the past continuous: someone ‘ ..

drowning.’ This indicates the passage of time, yet how the sight is still very real to Owen.

However, the opening spondees of lines 1, 2 and 5 serve to arrest our attention, as does ‘blood-shod’ and ‘all blind’ in line 6.

The stumbling, lurching progress of the men through the ‘sludge’ is conveyed by Owen’s use of caesura in the middle of line 5-7.


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