ANALYSIS DULCE ET DECORUM EST 5
Dr. Brigette Anderson
20 August 2018
Analysis: Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est”
With his poem “Dulce et Decorum Est”, author Wilfred Owen represented both the Modernist Literary Movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the realities of being a soldier during World War I. During this time of discourse, change, and war, the romanticism and ethereal qualities of previous literary periods were replaced with works that used more realistic language and imagery to comment on world events and the truth of a growing disconnect between society and the individual. “Dulce et Decorum Est” uses blunt and gruesome images to describe conditions faced by soldiers fighting in WWI and is one of a number of poems that Owen wrote protesting the war. His personal experience as a soldier gives credence to his depictions, as well as his overall negative view of the war efforts, and it is this intimate knowledge that separates his work from other Modernist pieces. While War Poetry can be viewed as a category within Modernist literature, it stands on its own as commentary of the unique experiences of soldiers and those affected during times of war.
The Modernist literary movement began in the late 19th century, continued into the early 20th century, and was the result of changes in ideological, philosophical, and political attitudes during the Industrial Revolution and surrounding the first World War. The new styles and tone of Modernist works were aimed at appealing to a larger population than just the usual elitist scholars or upper-class readers that had previously been the writer’s audience. No longer tasked to following previously established poetic structure or pentameters, Modernist poets combined past styles with a new focus on experimentation and relatable language and imagery (White). Wilfred Owen’s poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” is structured as two broken sonnets, and the viewpoint shifts from a present tense to reflection from one sonnet to the next. His broken stanzas tie this work directly to the Modernist concept of stream of consciousness writing, where the narrator is first commenting on what he is seeing, and then shifts to what those images stir in his mind. Owen’s use of the ironic title, which is in direct contrast to the poem’s anti-war theme, and is a fragment of his closing lines, “The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est/Pro patria mori” (Owen 27-28), translated as “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country” (Owen), is indicative of the disillusionment often found in modernist literary works.
The Modernist movement was anchored to the changing views of society, and a world that had been greatly affected by the first World War. Many were reevaluating their beliefs, and feelings regarding WWI and the reporting of actual events were often reflected...