Interpretation of “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen

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“Dulce et Decorum Est” is a poem by English poet Wilfred Owen. Besides being a poet, he participated in World War I, and this writing was devoted to experiences in battles during the war. “Dulce et Decorum Est” was published posthumously in the collection of Owen’s poems (Spacey). The author digresses about the griefs and losses of the war in this poem, writing from the young soldier’s point of view. It is essential to examine some examples from the poem to interpret it.

This work was written at the beginning of the twentieth century and still impresses by its strong language. For instance, “Bent-double / Like old beggars under sacks” (Owen, line 1) compares soldiers to old and weak beggars who lack physical power to stand straight. Probably, the author shows the unbearable burdens of the war, presenting young people as older men who are exhausted and devastated by the pains of the battle.

A similar comparison is in “coughing like hags” (Owen, line 2), where the author speaks about the unhealthy condition of soldiers. It is known that various illnesses such as tuberculosis took away people’s lives because society lacked prominent medical resources and personnel. Possibly, Owen tells the reader that death can wait for the soldier not only on the battlefield but everywhere because of harsh conditions.

Owen seems to give the reader multiple meanings of words he used in the text. For instance, there are possibilities for interpretation of the following line: “Men marched asleep / Many had lost their boots” (Owen, line 5). At first glance, “boots” in this poem may mean shoes, which soldiers lost in the battle. However, this word might also mean comrades who died on the battlefield. Moreover, “boots” can be interpreted as powers to exist and continue fighting, seeing the deaths of close friends. What is more, “marched asleep” might mean constant thoughts about the fighting. Soldiers had no chance to rest and free their thoughts; thus, their life was all about the war.

Moreover, using opposite-meaning words provides the poem with the basis for the reader’s digressions. The term “ecstasy” seems to stand out from the general topic of the poem in “An ecstasy of fumbling” (Owen, line 9). It is apparent that people usually operate this word in the sense of euphoria and happiness. However, it is interesting that Owen uses it here to denote the opposite meaning; here, “ecstasy” is not about happiness. It is about trance and a petrified sense of life, in which soldiers constantly live.

The last two lines are vital for the analysis in this poem. “The old Lie: / Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori” (Owen, lines 27-28). It is a Latin expression that defines a phrase as if the death in honor of the homeland is sweet (Spacey). However, the entire poem describes the horrors of war, and the author intentionally denies that the Latin expression is a lie. The battle is not always about awards, honors, and sweet death. According to the poem, war is about terrifying losses of power, beliefs, friends, and a sense of life. Owen uses the last lines to emphasize that people who had not witnessed the war inside cannot claim that death for the homeland is pleasant. The interpretation here is that Owen makes the reader reflect on the actual positioning of war – it is not about laurels; it is about pain.

World War I took away millions of innocent young lives who bravely fought for their homeland in the bloody fight. The poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen makes readers rethink the definition of the war and provides people with essential insights and valuable thoughts about people’s lives. There are multiple interpretations of words presented throughout the poem. Accordingly, the reader understands that Owen wants to show the brutality of the battle and the inner thoughts of the soldiers.

Works Cited

Owen, Wilfred. “Dulce et Decorum Est.Poetry Foundation. Web.

Spacey, Andrew. “Analysis of Poem ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ by Wilfred Owen.Owlcation. 2021. Web.