wilfred_owen_dulce language

Why wasn’t it ‘over by
• Developments in technology and modern
• One million grenades coming out of
munitions factories every week
• British soldiers were outnumbered, badly
equipped and unprepared
• Trench warfare created deadlock where very
little ground was made.
• Awful conditions
•13,000 men in 2 days, Flanders, March 1915
•60,000 men in 14 days. Battle of Loos, 1915
•60,000 men in 1 day, Battle of the Somme, 1916: more than
the Crimean War, Boer War and Korean War combined
Wilfred Owen
•Born 1893
•Died November 4th, 1918
•Killed in action, just a week
before war ended.
•News of his death reached his
mother just as the town’s church
bells were ringing for victory at the
end of the war.
•One of the war’s most famous
poets for speaking out against the
death and destruction it brought.
Wilfred Owen
Close Reading of Language
What is this poem about?
The title- Dulce et Decorum Est
• Taken from a Latin saying meaning ‘It is
sweet and right (to die for your country)’- in
other words, it is a wonderful and great
honour to die for your country.
• This was widely quoted at the beginning of
the war and poems like Pope’s ‘Who’s for
the Game’ reflected this idea.
Is this sweet? Is this right? Is this
• With mustard gas the effects did not become
apparent for up to twelve hours. But then it began
to rot the body, within and without.
•The skin blistered, the eyes became extremely
painful and nausea and vomiting began.
•Worse, the gas attacked the bronchial tubes,
stripping off the mucus membrane.
•The pain was almost beyond endurance and most
victims had to be strapped to their beds.
•Death took up to four or five weeks.
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we curse
through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped
Activity 1
(5 mins)
Owen uses lots of powerful imagery and similes to
describe the soldiers. Find three examples of this
and explain the effect these might have on the
Activity 2
• What is the impact of
‘Gas! Gas! Quick boys!’
• Owen describes the
soldiers putting their
gas masks on as ‘an
ecstasy of fumbling’.
Why does he use the
word ‘ecstasy’?
But someone still was yelling out and
And flound’ring 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,
Activity 3
• What is Owen describing here?
• What is the effect of words like ‘guttering,
choking, drowning.’?
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
Activity 4
• Why does Owen describe his dreams as
• What is the impact of using the word ‘flung’?
• This is a description of a man after a gas attack,
as his lungs are slowly eaten away. Which ugly
words and comparisons describe this?
• Who do you think Owen is addressing here when
he says ‘If you could hear’?
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Activity 5
• What is the tone of these final lines?
• How do you feel about this poem and what
do you think its final message is?