What is the situation or event described in the poem "Dulce et Decorum Est?"

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wilfred Owen's “Dulce et Decorum Est” recounts a death scene from World War I. It begins by describing downtrodden, ill World War I soldiers trudging to find a place to rest. They march covered in mud, and so exhausted that they seem to walk in their sleep. They hear the warning of “Gas! Gas! Quick boys!” and they prepare for a gas attack by putting on their gas masks and helmets in a moment’s notice. However, there is one soldier, who is symbolic of many, who does not get his mask on. The narrator describes the scene “As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.” The man is not literally drowning under the water; he is choking and suffocating on the gas. While he is struggling, he jumps toward the speaker beseeching him to help. The soldiers throw the dying man into a cart where he continues to suffer until he dies a horrific death, which is described in detail. The speaker admonishes the reader that after observing this scene, you cannot glorify war with the words “Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori” or it is sweet to die for your country.