The Delusive Glory Of War Essay Research

The Delusive Glory Of War Essay, Research Paper

Many of the young officers who fought in the Great War enlisted in the

army with glowing enthusiasm, believing that war was played in fancy

uniforms with shiny swords. They considered war as a noble task, an

exuberant journey filled with honor and glory. Yet, after a short period on

the front, they discovered that they had been disillusioned by the war:

fighting earned them nothing but hopelessness, death and terror. They

had lost their lives to the lost cause of war, which also killed their

innocence and youth. They were no longer boys but callous men. Wilfred

Owen?s poem ?Dulce et Decorum Est?, Pat Barker?s novel Regeneration, and

Erich Maria Remarque?s All Quiet on the Western Front, all portray the

irony between the delusive glory of war and the gruesome reality of it,

but whereas Owen and Sassoon treat the theme from a British point of

view, Remarque allows us to look at it from the enemy’s.

The poem ?Dulce et Decorum Est?, an anti-war poem by Wilfred Owen who

was an English footsoldier, states that it is not sweet and fitting to

die a hero?s death for a country. Right off in the first line, Owen

describes the troops as being ?like old beggars under sacks? (1). This

metaphor indicates that the men are battle weary and suggests reluctance.

They also have been on their feet for days and appear to be drained of

youth as they ?marched asleep? (5) and ?limped on, blood-shod? (6).

Overall, in the first stanza,

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there seems to be a tension between old and young because it shows how

the impact of an endless war has reduced these once energetic young men

to the point where they could be referred to as ?old? (1), ?lame? (6)

and ?drunk with fatigue? (7). In the second stanza and at the beginning

of the third, Owen makes a gruesome portrayal of a gas attack that

painfully expresses desperation, suffering, and powerlessness. He uses ?An

ecstasy of fumbling? (9) to describe the men grasping for their gas

masks during the attack. The fact that ?ecstasy? is used with ?fumbling?

is surprising and disturbing but suggests the difference between the

society?s beliefs about the war and the actuality of it. Images such as

?flound?ring like a man in fire or lime?? (12), ?He plunges at me,

guttering, choking, drowning.? (16), ?His hanging face, like a devil?s sick

of sin? (20), ?Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs? (22) hurls

the pain of war and death into the readers face. By the end of the

third and last stanza, the irony of the title has completely unfolded:

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. (25-29)

Through vivid imagery and compelling metaphors, Owen wants people to

stop lying about how ?sweet? and ?fitting? it is ?to die for one?s


Pat Barker’s 1991 novel, Regeneration, represents her

fictional-historical account of Rivers’ treatment of the war poet Siegfried Sassoon. The

novel?s anti-war message is very clear and well argued from Barker?s

point of view because by emphasizing on war and madness she shows us how

the minds of her characters were damaged by the war.

The novel begins with Sassoon?s letter of resignation: ? I am a

soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this

war, upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now

become a war of aggression and conquest? (3). Here, the changing form of

war is described through the eyes of one soldier speaking out for many

others. The soldiers expected a war where they would fight for their

country?s benefit. Instead, they entered a war where the purpose of their

sacrifices was eventually forgotten and senseless slaughter was

?deliberately prolonged?. Also, the use of this letter at the beginning

suggests that the theme of the soldiers? disillusionment would frequently be

discussed throughout the novel. In the development of the story, a

significant change in Rivers? mind and opinion can be noticed:

Rivers was aware, as a constant background to his work, of a conflict

between his belief that the war must be fought to a finish, for the sake

of the succeeding generations, and his horror that such events as those

which had led to Burns?s breakdown should be allowed to continue. (47)

Rivers was an Englishman of his class and generation: he considered it

a necessary war that should be fought to a victory, though he was

shocked by the horror stories that would gradually make him doubt that maybe

he had been disillusioned about war too. Barker?s way of entering a

historical figure?s mind and examining his thoughts helps the reader

understand more profoundly the meaning of the war and its terrible


In All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque illustrates

the vivid horror and raw nature of war and tries to change the popular

belief that war is an idealistic character. At the beginning of the

novel, we notice, as in ?Dolce et Decorum Est?, that there is a tension between young and old. When Kantorek

calls Paul and his friends Germany?s iron youth, Paul responds: ?Yes,

that?s what they think, these hundred thousand Kantoreks! Iron youth! Youth!

We are none of us more than twenty years old. But young? Youth? That is

long ago. We are old folk.? (18). Paul?s response suggests that the

boys are so tired and have been through so much horror that their youth

has been completely destroyed. Also, a very touching passage that

portrays the theme of the book quite well is when Paul attacks the romantic

ideals of war:

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but

despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of

sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence,

unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another. I see that

the keenest brains of the world invent weapons and words to make it yet

more refined and enduring. (263)

Paul?s strong words, demonstrated through the author?s talent, are

denouncing the authority figures who were supposed to guide his generation

into adulthood but instead turned the youth against each other in the

pursuit of superficial ideals. The soldiers were simply the victims of a

meaningless war.

In conclusion, Remarque?s firsthand encounters with trench warfare,

Owen?s vivid descriptions of the soldiers? experiences and Baker?s

touching accounts of the lives of historical figures, all state that there

were no victors in war, only losers in a hopeless battle for territorial


Works Cited

Barker, Pat. Regeneration. Toronto: Plume, 1993.

Owen, Wilfred. ?Dulce et Decorum Est.? The Faber Book of War Poetry.

Ed. Kenneth Baker. London: Faber, 1997. 3-4.

Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front. Trans. A. W.

Wheen. New York: Ballantine, 1982.