(Name) (Professor) (Subject) (Date) The Absence of Honor in War The death of a soldier in war is often rewarded with a stately funeral and a gun salute. However, this cultural practice does not reveal at all the truth about how a soldier really dies in battle…
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As a soldier himself by profession, Owen describes this imagery using a strong first person point-of-view: “[The dying soldier] plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning,” and “[from my gas mask, I] watch the white eyes writhing in his face,” and “[I could hear] the blood/ Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs.” From these graphic and horrific descriptions of a soldier slowly dying in front of his comrade, Owen is trying to show the reader that, as a soldier himself, he has witnessed how a fellow dies in cold blood – but the reader hasn’t. Owen’s own eyewitness account obviously lends credibility to the truth of the poem and to the truth of its theme – that death in war is not only brutal but also void of honor. No matter what people say about the honor that is given to those who have died in war, no sixteen-gun salute can ever make up for the gore and pain that a dying man experiences as he holds on to life before he slowly slips away. In Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” the brutal and horrible death of Ted Lavender – “with his mouth open,” “teeth…broken,” and “cheekbone…gone” – makes everyone realize that the same thing is going to happen to all of them soldiers regardless of everything that they carry and regardless of the courage that they have. At the same time, the VC corpse, who was so young and whose thumb was taken by Mitchell Sanders and given to Norman Bowker, somehow reminded the soldiers of the fact that there is indeed no moral in death. Death has no value and it ends where it is – and death in war is just as useless. Aside from the imagery, in “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” Owen’s also uses irony to illustrate the dishonor of death in the battlefield. The unusually sharp and unexpected irony” in “Dulce Et Decorum Est” has the purpose of showing the reader “a random, futile and meaningless death, whose memory offers neither comfort or heroic assurance.” In fact, in the poem, Owen portrays an image of soldiers who are rather least heroic and most ironic image of soldiers in the poem. The soldiers in Owen’s poem are described as tired and dirty, and they falter as soon as they are attacked by gas shells. In the poem, these soldiers are regarded as “old beggars under sacks/ Knock-kneed, coughing like hags” who “marched asleep…lost their boots/ But limped on blood-shod. All went lame; all blind.” The reader is then forced to ask himself: Where is then the honor in this? No, there is no honor – and the irony of all ironies is that “Dulce et decorum est/ Pro patria mori,” which literally translates to “It is sweet and right to die for your country” – is actually an “old Lie.” This instance of irony is meant to sarcastically tell the pro-war activists one thing: That when one joins the war and dies in battle, one thing is sure – he dies a bloody death and that is all there is to it. There is no honor in it, no pride and no glory at all – just death, which is no different from the death of old beggars and coughing hags who never did anything honorable in their lives. In Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” the very things that the soldiers carried physically in their bodies and emotionally in their hearts were actually basically only excess baggage- ...
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