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In “Dulce et Decorum Est”, Wilfred Owen speaks profoundly to the horrors of war by setting up a vivid contrast between the Horatian (and Homeric) ideal of the heroic individual warrior and the exhausted maimed soldiers in the trenches of World War I. He does this through use of imagery. Rather than adjectives that emphasize nobility and skill, he uses terms like hag, knock-kneed, lame, blood-shod, and floundering. The soldiers are portrayed as victims not heroes, and the impersonal poison gas as a horror against which no individual effort or bravery could make any difference. A particularly appalling image is “blood/Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,” that has almost a hospital rather than martial tone.
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