Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum est: Summary & Analysis (2023)

Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum est: Summary & Analysis (1)

War is usually a bloody series of battles between 2 or more factions. Usually, it is between different tribes or countries. In Dulce et Decorum, Wilfred Owen describes war as being deadly, very bloody, and disgusting where soldiers are innocently killed, ripped apart, and treated like beggars without hope or worth.

However, during wars, countries generally tell their people that it is an honor or privilege to die for your country; that is what ‘Dulce et decorum et pro-Patria Mori’ means. However, in Owen’s poem, he argues that in reality, it is not heroism, but it is quite disgusting and could even make you hate your country.

(Video) Brief Analysis - 'Dulce et Decorum Est' by Wilfred Owen

In the first stanza, Owen portrays the impression that war makes the soldiers more exhausted and hag-like. “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks.” In ‘Bent double,’ Owen forms the impression that joining the war causes an enormous amount of fatigue and exhaustion. Soldiers are working until their bodies are twisted and contorted, making their experience seem completely different than the sort of marching we usually see in military parades.

It is comparable to beggars who have terrible health, sickly bodies, and old hags. It’s similar to women who are cramped up and wrinkled with curved backs, not all the proud and glorious soldiers marching in a much-organized fashion; this leaves an impression that war is boring and exhausting, where soldiers are working like slaves all day with bags so huge that it appears that you are under the bag, not that the bag is over you. They are abnormally deformed with their knees closed together while their ankles far apart.

In stanza 1 again, Owen gives the impression that war is disappointing and makes the soldiers appear drunk, or even like zombies from the exhaust, continuing their fight to survive. Even without a gas bomb or a battle, they are still like zombies. “Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots that. Of disappointed shells that dropped behind,” ‘Drunk’ shows that they were in a terrible physical state that they seemingly appeared to be drunk, not able to walk, looking mad, and crazy.

‘Fatigue’ here reflects that it is not caused by alcohol abuse, but due to overdose of work, making them weary and tired. They seem sick or drunk-like even before they started a battle or survived a gas bomb. ‘Deaf to the hoots’ further shows how handicapped they are from war; they even lose their senses. ‘Hoots’ shows that the shells are useless and they became gentle like owls, this might be because they are used to the sound of shells.

(Video) Analysis of Dulce et Decorum est by Wilfred Owen

READ: Canadian History: World War I Study Guide

Now, it is like background noise for them. Also ‘disappointing’ might suggest that the bombs not only are useless for the enemies but are disappointing the soldiers because they want the shells to hit them, so it could put an end to their misery and torture, letting them eternally. This gives the impression that war promotes hopelessness, making soldiers want to die as they are worn-out by work.

In stanza 2, Owen gives the impression that war is clumsy and may be slow or too easy to survive. “GAS! Gas! Quick, boys! – an ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time”. The ‘GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!’ shows shock and the repetition of the shock, reflecting the panic and confusion in war. GAS is in capitals portrays the yell of warning and panic, while an exclamation mark reflects a feeling of shock and surprise.

It is repeated in exclamation marks to convey how much time it took for them to realize, amid all the confusion and chaos. ‘An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time.’ ‘Ecstasy’ shows how much chaos there was by comparing it to a drug effect, previously they were compared to drunks and now they appear to be drugged (overflowing with emotions) from all the confusion and disorganization of the soldiers drained of their strength. ‘Fumbling’ and ‘fitting’ have alliteration with the letter F that makes the reader think of fear subliminally. This gives the impression that war was disorganized and just a constant battle to stop yourself from being the victim of the survival series.

(Video) Analysing Wilfred Owen's 'Dulce et Decorum Est' (Part One) - DystopiaJunkie Analysis

Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum est: Summary & Analysis (2)

In the 2nd stanza, Owen conveys that soldiers die slowly and devil-like. It also shows the helplessness of watching the soldiers die in disgusting, melting-like ways. “Floundering like a man in fire or lime”. ‘Floundering’ shows how bad the struggle to survive is by comparing it to a struggling fish trying to live on land, jumping around helplessly, this is like a man burning helplessly, plunging about without hope.

‘Fire’ or ‘lime’ shows how bad the gas was, burning him like acid or fire from the inside, comparing it to the most torturous thing people can imagine experiencing. This creates an impression that war is terribly disgusting and VERY painful.

In the 3rd stanza, it shows how war is as bad as your eye can see or even imagine, Owen compares the scene of the dying man slowly from the gas to the worst of nightmares that haunt you every night. “In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunged at me guttering, choking, drowning”.

(Video) The Old Lie: Reading, Summary, and Analysis of Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est"

READ: Effects of World War I on France

Because the trio of verbs are verbs that end in –ing, it gives the sense that the action is in the present tense. The soldiers die over and over in his dream, making the suffering of wartime casualties never-ending. Also, these three verbs (‘guttering, choking, and drowning’) are brutal, merciless verbs.

He ‘plunged’ at him shows how he is struggling like a fish but is helpless and the narrator cannot help him while he watching him slowly get murdered by the fire and lime-like gas, ‘my helpless sight’.

Owen described how disgusting war and death are and then sarcastically warns the reader that war is not like what children and teenagers think it is, but that is the impression the country gives to them, which is nothing but an old lie. ‘Myfriend, you would not tell with such high zest the old lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.’

(Video) Analysis Wilfred Owen’s Poem Dulce et Decorum Est

He says ‘my friend’ talking to the reader, this is the reality of war, it is all death, however ‘my friend,’ if you still didn’t understand that it is the complete opposite of the lies the countries tell to encourage you to join the war. In a sarcastic tone, showing that it is obvious that it is not what children and teenagers think of as all glory, victory, and pride. With great enthusiasm and energy, you would not tell them confidently that it is sweet and right to die for your country because on the inside you know you are wrong.

In the poem, Owen gives the impression and explains the reality of war. The terrible reality is described by the gruesomeness and the state in which the soldiers try to survive, wasting their lives innocently. He is showing how it is not at all like what the people think and encourage the children to go to war. All that about glory and right and sweetness to DIE for your country is nothing but lies to persuade you into war by tricking you into thinking it is all energy and victory.

After coming back from war, your whole life changes, you have seen the worst a human can see, IF you come back properly, you would not tell the children, ‘it is nice and sweet to die for your country’, with big enthusiasm and pride, but by knowing in your heart that it is a lie.


What was the main message of Wilfred Owen's poem Dulce et Decorum Est? ›

The central tension of this poem is between the reality of the war and the government's portrayal of war as sweet, right and fitting to die for your country. The message that the poet conveys is the reality of the war that is horrific and inhuman.

What are the main themes of Wilfred Owen's poems? ›

Owens poems talk about the truth of war. The poems focus on the fear of war, horror, sacrifice, glory and questioning life's purpose. . In particular, the poems “Mental Cases” and “Dulce Decorum Est” both strongly emphasise the reality and horrific experiences of war.

What is the theme of Dulce? ›

The main theme of this poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen is the war violence. Connected themes are those of suffering and patriotism.

What is Owen's message about war? ›

War: Owen once declared of all his writing that: 'My theme is war and the pity of war'. In this poem he looks at a particular aspect of how death claimed the lives of so many soldiers. The soldiers seem to have little idea of where they are, what they are fighting for and for how long it will be.

Is there symbolism in Dulce et Decorum Est? ›

In “Dulce et Decorum Est” there are multiple symbols that describe death. The main theme in “Dulce et Decorum Est” is death because the poem is about war and unfortunately a large outcome and aspect of war is death.

Why is Dulce et Decorum Est a powerful poem? ›

'Dulce Et Decorum Est' is possibly the most famous 'war poem' which, since the First World War, has come to mean 'anti-war' poetry: the image of a young man coughing up his lungs remains the classic example of 'war realism' in its full-frontal shock value.

Why was Wilfred Owen's death so tragic? ›

Owen's death is especially tragic as the armistace was declared just one week after his death resulting in the end of world war 1, therefore around the time his family back home learned of his death they also found out the war was over.

What are 3 common themes about war that you noticed? ›

  • Trauma and War.
  • Blame, Revenge, and Justice.
  • Loss of Innocence.
  • Honor, Duty, and Heroism.
10 May 2019

What imagery does Wilfred Owen use? ›

Owen utilises harsh imagery which is seen in the first four lines where he metaphorically compares the death of soldiers to the slaughter of cows, “What passing bells for those who die as cattle”. The line is a rhetorical question suggesting that there is no answer, this reiterates the point of meaningless death.

What kind of poem is Dulce et Decorum Est? ›

The stanza breaks of "Dulce et Decorum Est" do not simply announce the poem's relationship to the sonnet form -- they practically scream it. Owen opens with an eight-line stanza followed by a six-line stanza. This suggests the Petrarchan sonnet from which the English sonnet was first developed.

Why is Dulce et Decorum Est ironic? ›

In the poem, lines 27 and and 28 show Owen's irony “Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori.” These lines translate to “It is sweet and right to die for your country.” This is irony because the whole essay has a critical tone of war and then at the end Owen writes, “Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori,” which…show ...

What is the mood of the poem Dulce et Decorum Est? ›

The overall tone, mood and atmosphere of Wilfred Owen's poem, 'Dulce et Decorum Est' is a mix between sadness, chaos and anger. A wide use of diverse similes and hyperbole has been used in Owens poem to create a mood of sadness.

What message did Owen communicate through his poem? ›

In his collection 'The War Poems', Wilfred Owen aims to convey to the British public the full horror of this global conflict. The soldiers are faced with the appalling conditions on the battlefield, not just from enemy fire, but also the elements.

What is Owen's thesis? ›

¨We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.

What are Wilfred Owen's poems about? ›

Wilfred Owen

What type of poem is Wilfred Owen interested? ›

Owen's poetry would eventually be more widely acclaimed than that of his mentor. While his use of pararhyme with heavy reliance on assonance was innovative, he was not the only poet at the time to use these particular techniques. He was, however, one of the first to experiment with it extensively.

What are the most common themes prevailing in war poetry? ›

Poems about wars generally fall into three main categories: personal war chronicles, patriotic war lyrics, and war prophecies.

What are the major themes in WB Yeats poetry? ›

He tried to keep record of most of these ups and downs and interpreted them in his own unique poetic way. The result is that his themes cover such wide ranging areas as love, politics, old- age art, aristocracy, violence and prophecy, history myth, courtesy hatred, innocence, anarchy and nostalgia.


1. Dulce et Decorum Est summary and analysis for Junior Cert
(Enda Mc Hugh)
2. Tamil Explanation of the Poem Dulce et Decorum Est : by the poet Wilfred Owen
(Honey's Style)
3. Dulce Et Decorum Est Animation
(Animative Media)
4. Wilfred Owen - Dulce Et Decorum Est - Analysis. Poetry Lecture by Dr. Andrew Barker
5. The Recap: Dulce Et Decorum Est…- Wilfred Owen
(Jamain Hatton)
6. Chapter 22. Dulce et Decorum Est Wilfred Owen DU SOL CBCS SEMESTER 1Individual and Society
(Poonam Dua Classes MA English Entrance)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Errol Quitzon

Last Updated: 10/10/2023

Views: 5453

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (79 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Errol Quitzon

Birthday: 1993-04-02

Address: 70604 Haley Lane, Port Weldonside, TN 99233-0942

Phone: +9665282866296

Job: Product Retail Agent

Hobby: Computer programming, Horseback riding, Hooping, Dance, Ice skating, Backpacking, Rafting

Introduction: My name is Errol Quitzon, I am a fair, cute, fancy, clean, attractive, sparkling, kind person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.