How does Wilfred Owen use imagery to make his poem appealing?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Owen does not use imagery (description using the five senses) to make his poem "Dulce et Decorum Est" appealing but to convey as powerfully as possible the horror of war as he has experienced it. Although the classical phrase "dulce et decorum est," meaning "it is sweet and fitting" (to fight and die for one's country), was used to glorify war and to encourage soldiers to see themselves as heroes, Owen employs the phrase ironically, showing through his imagery that warfare is neither sweet nor fitting.

Owen uses the least heroic images possible to describe the soldiers fighting in World War I. He refers to them as "beggars" and "hags" rather than brave fighters. He shows them "bent double ... coughing." Some have lost their boots and "tramp" on bloody feet. They are a pathetic rabble rather than a glorious battle force. 

Owen graphically describes the victim of a mustard gas attack: "white eyes writhing in his face ...the blood gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs." He wants readers to see in these images how horrible modern warfare is. While I would not call his imagery "appealing," I would, instead, call it powerful and effective.

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Dulce et Decorum Est

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