Wilfred Owens Dulce ET Decorum Est is a vivid description of how horrible dying for your country can be, contrary to the belief of many. He speaks against the old lie that dying for your country is a great honor. Most people think that dying for your country is a great honor, but they do not see how these soldiers are dying. Civilians do not see these soldiers marching through mud in freezing cold temperatures without boots on. They do not see these soldiers so drunk with fatigue (7) that they do not even realize that shells were being dropped behind them.
One soldier did not get his gas mask on in time and another soldier describes what he sees:
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And floundring like a man in fire or lime
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning
The way he chokes and drowns truly does not sound glorious. This man, who was just a few seconds away from staying alive, is now experiencing what it feels like to drown on your own blood. Drowning on your own blood sounds like one of the worst ways to die through Owens description. While this soldier is slowly dying, his fellow comrades have to watch and listen to him going through such agony. The other soldiers following close behind the wagon have to stumble along worrying and hoping that this will not happen to them. Then again, maybe some of them are hoping that this will happen to them. Im sure that these soldiers have all thought about death as being an end to this horrible war. But I do not think that any of these soldiers want to do die in the way that their fellow mate has.
The last stanza is most disturbing because of the description of how this man now looks. The way they flung him in (18) the wagon makes it seem like this solider no longer has a purpose They show no regard for his body when they throw him in the wagon because the agony he is in could not get any worse. The way Owen describes the mans face it is if he is already dead: And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, / His hanging face, like a devils sick of sin; (19-20). The soldier who describes this does not show any remorse for his fallen comrade. He states what is happening and realizes that this man is dying, but he does not try to comfort him. This soldiers mind is so broken down from war that he no longer has the ability to show compassion. He has seen so many other horrible sights that this one is just normal. The reason the man does not shoot him and put him out of his misery is because he is so disillusioned that he does not realize that he could help him. Also, if the soldier just shot him and killed him, how glorious would that be? Isnt it more glorious to go through more pain and agony? Owen seems to think that if you saw this horrible scene that you would not tell the old lie either. If everyone went through this, and saw how not glorious it was then no one would tell the old lie.
It seems as if Owen is telling people in this poem not to tell young kids in my age group that dying for your country is so glorious. He knows that kids who are my age are more likely to go into the army and fight in a war just because it is a great honor to fight for your country. With the war going on now, we do not hear any stories like these. We only hear the number of casualties, not how they became casualties. The government, along with the army, knows that if stories like these get out, no one would want to join the army. If stories like this one popped up today, then there would be very different ideas about the war. Young males would probably think a lot harder about making that decision to join the army. State Representatives and other government officials, hopefully, would take into consideration this awful alternative to solving differences between countries. If they heard stories such as these they might be a little more hesitant to give support to any war.