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Dulce et Decorum Est

Dulce et Decorum Est

by Wilfred Owen

Versions of Reality Theme

"Dulce et Decorum Est" creates a sharp and deeply ironic line between the civilians who prop up war efforts and the men who fight their battles. As Owen suggests, there's almost no way for either group to understand the other. Only those who have experienced the horror of battle can understand the trauma of losing a fellow soldier. Ironically, however, these soldiers don't have the ability to communicate fully with those at home who could bring the war to an end – the people who reiterate old slogans about honor, duty, and patriotism without ever having to experience the terror of battle themselves. The very word "war" begins to mean two very different things for the two populations in this poem. Tragically, these views seem increasingly irreconcilable.

Questions About Versions of Reality

  1. Who is the "you" to whom the speaker addresses the poem?
  2. Which is scarier: the battle itself or the dreams of battle the speaker later experiences? How does the language of the poem help you reach this conclusion?
  3. What sort of picture of war do the last lines of the poem create? How does the rest of the poem undercut this viewpoint?

Chew on This

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

Through emphasis on the hellish, nightmarish quality of gas-attacks, Owen suggests that war itself is a vain dream.

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