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stanza 1
Stanza 1
  • Meaning: Stanza 1 begins with a description of the shocking condition of a group of soldiers retreating from the battle field. The detail used to describe the men’s wretched state is in marked contrast to the glorified image of war suggested by the title.The men are so exhausted they fail to notice a gas shell falling close by. Note how the description of the men builds to suggest how they have been totally degraded and demoralised by war.
  • Style: Stanza 1 is heavily punctuated, slowing the pace of the opening of the poem to suggest the slow, staggering movements of the tired soldiers.
stanza 1 analysis
Dramatic opening through

use of power visual image

Simile undermines stereotypes

image of soldiers as young and fit suggests they are filthy and weak

Stanza 1 Analysis

Simile conveys how men have

become unrecognisable, their

masculinity and youth destroyed

Alliteration for emphasis, a hard, staccato sound to echo the harsh mood of theses lines

  • Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.


implies how heavy and difficult the ground is to cross

Personification suggests death is

hunting the men, it is a

constant presence wherever they go

Word choice emphasises

how exhausted

The men feel

stanza 1 analysis1
Metaphor conveys the men’s exhaustion, they are so tired they are barely aware of what they’re doingStanza 1 Analysis

The poor physical state of the men is clear, their feet are caked in mud and blood

Repetition emphasises

every man suffered

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,

But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Metaphor suggests how the

men are so weary they are

staggering and uncoordinated

Onomatopoeia suggest a warning sound but also that the shells are mocking the men

stanza 2 analysis
Series of short exclamations

conveys panic- a sudden

contrast to verse 1

Stanza 2 Analysis

Transferred epithet conveys

how the men struggle to put on their gas masks in time

  • Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling

And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime. —

Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

Simile emphasises the pain the

man is in- as if he was being burned alive.The image also has connotations of hell

Word choice tells us how the

man is thrashing about in agony

Reader sees event from Owen’s perspective

-makes poem more immediate and emotive

An extended metaphor describes the man choking to death- unable to breathe, he falls about

stanza 3 analysis
Stanza 3 Analysis
  • Stanza 3 is structured as 2 lines only. This indicates a shift in time as the narrator relates how many years after the war he still recalls this traumatic event. This emphasizes how the impact of war is felt for many years, and many generations.
  • In all my dreams before my helpless sight

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

Conveys a sense of guilt that he can do nothing to help his friend

Onomatopoeia imitates the

soldier’s attempts

to draw breath

These words continue the metaphor introduced in Stanza 2 and helps us picture the man falling about, desperately trying to draw breath.

‘Guttering’ refers to a candle spitting

before it goes out, suggesting coughing

and spluttering and symbolising the

young man’s life being extinguished

stanza 4
Stanza 4
  • Meaning and tone: In Stanza 4 the poet changes his narrative perspective as he addresses the reader directly. We are asked to consider our personal response to the atrocities of war and confront the deceit and hypocrisy of pro war propaganda. The tone in the final lines is bitter and angry. Owen uses the patriotic slogan in darkly ironic way to expose the dishonesty of romanticised portrayals of war in light of the horrific account of soldiers experiences he has described.
stanza 4 analysis
Directly addresses reader.‘Pace behind’ suggests funeral procession Stanza 4 Analysis



the hideous

sight of the



Emotive word choice implies soldiers are treated with no respect as if disposable

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace

Behind 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 blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs

Bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, —

Simile conveys how even

Satan would be disgusted

by this sight

Word choice suggests

sudden movement-

implies pain the man


Contrast in this simile highlights how youth

and innocence are destroyed by war

stanza 4 analysis1
This means

great enthusiasm

Stanza 4 Analysis

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.

Owen here

directly refers to propaganda that portrays war as a heroic adventure

Owen ends the poem with a

damning criticism of war and

those who support it. He makes

it clear that anyone who knew

the truth of war could not view it

as war as an act of heroic patriotism

Repetition of title makes us

reconsider our attitude to war

in light of what the poem

has revealed