Dulce et Decorum Est Questions and Answers
by Wilfred Owen

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How is the poem 'Dulce Et Decorum Est' by Wilfred Owen structured? Wilfred Owen Dulce Et Decorum Est _ Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,Till on the haunting flares we turned our backsAnd towards our distant rest began to trudge.Men marched asleep. Many had lost their bootsBut limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hootsOf disappointed shells that dropped behind.GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;But someone still was yelling out and stumblingAnd floundering like a man in fire or lime.--Dim, through the misty panes and thick green lightAs under a green sea, I saw him drowning.In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.If in some smothering dreams you too could paceBehind 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 bloodCome gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cudOf vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--My friend, you would not tell with such high zestTo children ardent for some desperate glory,The old Lie: Dulce et decorum estPro patria mori.

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A key aspect of this poem, and an essential part of the way that it is structured, is the fact that the development of the stanzas reflects the way in which the poet draws the reader into the scene. Consider how the initial stanza uses the first person plural to relate the sad and depressing description of this group of soldiers who are so exhausted and weary that they resemble "old beggars under sacks" more than young men.

In the second stanza, we have a sudden shift from "we" to "I" as the narrator describes the terrible sight of the man "drowning" in gas in front of him. The two-line stanza that follows stands out structurally because of its brevity, which serves to emphasise the horror of the sight that the narrator describes:

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

 

The final stanza shifts to the second person, as the speaker seeks to draw the reader into the scene and to challenge their assumptions about war and glory through the very real and very tragic sight of this soldier's body as it is eaten up by gas. Structurally therefore, we can trace this poem through the shifts of person and how this is intrinsically linked to its meaning. 

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