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Themes

In this poem, dying for your country (or even fighting for your country) seems a lot less worthwhile than the trumped-up truisms of old patriotic battle cries imply. Strategically drawing his readers through the ghastly reality of life in a battle zone, Owen turns patriotic fervor into a kind of deadly life force. The people at home just can't understand how horrible life on the front actually is. The soldiers in war can't remember why they are fighting. Everyone, it seems, is lost: lost in a fog of war or in the useless ideals that sacrifice youth at the altar of national glory.

Questions About Patriotism

  1. Why doesn't Owen insert a wartime slogan in English? What does the Latin quote in the poem's last lines add to the overall effect of poem?
  2. Is there a difference between the "boys" in battle and the "children" in the last stanza?
  3. Is Owen's poem unpatriotic? Why or why not?
  4. What is the poem's attitude towards civilian opinions of the war? How can you tell?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

"Dulce et Decorum Est" privileges individual well-being (or ending individual suffering) over the collective good.

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