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Dolce Et Decorum Est Response Paper

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"You Want the Truth? You Can't Handle the Truth"

Being a member of our armed forces is one of the toughest jobs in the world. Unless one is an officer, the pay is usually not enough, the hours are long, one can end up working on Christmas and various other holidays, sacrificing time with one's own family and friends to serve a population that generally will never say thank you to one's face. This is not the side we see to the military. We are told it is an amazing decision, although a difficult one, for one to make. When one enlists in the military they are promised a chance to see the world, get a college education, and even a loan to help purchase a house once he or she returns home. No one ever really thinks about all the moments they sacrifice and how they could end up making the ultimate sacrifice. "Dulce et Decorum Est," a poem written by Wilfred Owen, describes one of the many terrors our soldiers come face to face with in battle. Through the use of intense, vivid imagery he creates in our imagination a horror that was often a reality for those who served in World War I. Owen also exposes the truth about what it means to be in the military and how the government essentially lies to the people, trying to convince them to join. In the end, we are left with a sickness in our gut and a new realization of what being a soldier of the United States entails.

When one pictures a soldier one imagines a strong, confident, poised, dignified, brave and courageous person standing in front of an American flag, in a clean, undamaged uniform, proud to be serving his or her country. As Owen points out in his poem, this is bull shit. He writes, "bent double, like old beggars under sacks, knock-kneed, coughing like hags" (lines 1-2). What he describes is men (women did not serve in the military in World War I, unless they were nurses) in a sickly state, almost as if they are homeless old men plagued with a lung infection. This is not at all what one imagines their military being comprised of. Although, it does take courage, bravery, and strength to survive these conditions, we are still left shocked by this image because most of us, do not picture our service men and women to be put in these types of conditions, nor do we picture strength, bravery, and courage being exhibited in this fashion.

We are also sheltered by our news stations and propaganda about the deaths and other various traumas soldiers come face to face with in the lines of duty. Owen writes:

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling

And flound'ring like a mine in fire or lime . . .

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning . . .




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