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Themes

As Owen describes it, war becomes a never-ending nightmare of muddy trenches and unexpected gas attacks. Interestingly, with the new-fangled technology of WWI, there doesn't even need to be a real enemy present to create the devastation and destruction. Set in the middle of a gas attack, this poem explores the intense agony of a world gone suddenly insane – and the unfortunate men who have to struggle through it. As the poem itself asks, how can anyone condone so much suffering?

Questions About Warfare

  1. Does the description of battle in this poem seem realistic? Can you easily imagine it? Why or why not?
  2. Do you have any sense of why the soldiers in this poem are fighting?
  3. Describe the most vivid images in this poem. Are they actually battle-images?
  4. Whom does the speaker blame for the continuance of the war?

Chew on This

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

"Dulce et Decorum Est" becomes a chronicle of the living dead: the soldiers whose minds remain trapped in the horrors of battle.

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