Dulce et Decorum Est was written by Wilfred Owen, a poet who had fought as an officer in World War I and was subsequently killed in the line of duty. This source was intended for supporters of the war, those who still believed in the honor of dying for their country but were unaware of the pain and suffering involved in warfare, especially those who were urging others to join the fight for the sake of achieving personal glory and national honor.
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It was presumably first written or drafted in France in October 1917, where Owen had been fighting since the end of 1916 before he received treatment for shell shock in 1917, having scribbled his poems while he was in the trenches and reworking them shortly after. The poem was then revised and ultimately completed in March 1918, after Owen returned to the western front in 1918. It was during this time period that the most widespread mutinies began taking place among French forces, including civilian strikes by munitions workers and various others, sparking both internal and external conflicts which affected the well-being and stability of France.
The aforementioned source is a poem depicting a soldier’s, possibly Owen’s, experiences and feelings whilst fighting in the war, the specific scene described is of the dropping of gas-shells as he and his comrades were returning after another day on the battlefield and the aftermath of this incident. Through this source, Owen not only illustrated the horrifying effects of the gas-shells, but also proved his opinion that one would no longer see any glory or honor in war if they had witnessed its reality firsthand and would cease to believe fictitious statements, such as the Latin quote that dying for one’s country is sweet and honorable, thus allowing the public and history itself to know the true effects of war and the horrors that were inflicted upon the front-line troops.
This source is historically significant because it gives a firsthand account of what life was like for such front-line soldiers, and provides insight into the life of a soldier in contrast to the glory promised to those who decided to join the fight. As a man who had fought in battle for a number of years, Owen is able to give an in-depth view into the lives of World War I troops and the physically and emotionally taxing experience of war. From attempting to rest after countless hours of bloodshed and injuries, to living every moment on red alert, to learning to cope with shellshock and possibly post-traumatic stress disorder, it is clearly presented that life as a soldier was no easy task, and that everything such soldiers witnessed and experienced would remain with them for a long time. This makes the source historically significant as it sheds light on the effects of World War I from a more personal perspective, also giving readers a glimpse into what the mindset of a World War I soldier was like.
Similar to the given Latin quote, much of war propaganda was biased and flawed. It emphasized the idea that dying for one’s nation was both duty and a way of showing patriotism, and over-glorified the achievements which one would earn after surviving the war. However, the truth of the matter is that World War I caused a lot of destruction to the lives of civilians and troops, leaving them with trauma much longer-lasting than any short-lived feelings of glory. This is evident in the source as the speaker recounts seeing the dying soldier in all his dreams, still haunted by the sight even long after that particular battle. The poem does not gloss over the effects of war and presents the gory details as they are. Therefore, the source is significant in its portrayal of the harsh reality of war and its ability to point out the faults in how war propaganda falsely depicts warfare.
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