Wilfred Owen (1893–1918)

130 Study Questions, Activities, and Resources

Study Questions and Activities


  1. Look at the following recruitment poster. Do you think Owen had it in mind when he wrote the last line of the poem?

Dulce et Decorum Est

  1. Read Dr. Stuart Lee’s Background to “Dulce et Decorum Est.” Which one of the four do you prefer and why?
  2. Notice the subtitle in the first: “To a Certain Poetess” Who might that be? Remember to click on the Stage 1 and 2 links at To visit Oxford Tutorial page for Dulce et Decorum Est


  1. What has occurred just before the poem begins?
  2. What scene do you visualize at the opening of the poem?
  3. Who is speaking? What is his relation to “him”?
  4. To whom is he speaking in line 1?
  5. Why does the speaker want “him” moved into the sun?
  6. What reasons does the speaker give for thinking the sun will help?
  7. What is the connotation of “sun”? “snow”? “clay”?
  8. What does “fatuous” mean?
  9. Rhythm: How should we read the second stanza? What effect do the many hyphens have on the tempo of our reading?
  10. How does the title relate to the theme?


  1. What does the acronym stand for? (These letters constitute an army acronym. See a good definition and discussion of acronyms)
  2. Characterize Tim’s father. In what way is it true that Tim died “smiling”?

Smile, Smile, Smile

  1. To what popular wartime song is Owen alluding to in the title? What is meant by the Mail?

QR Code Smile Dmile Smile

Anthem for Doomed Youth

  1. What kind of sonnet is this? What is its rhyme scheme? 


  • For those who wish to view a movie dealing with Owen and Sassoon, borrow Pat Barker’s Regeneration. Please note that Pat Barker’s novel Regeneration (1991) was filmed in 1997 (released in 1998 as Behind the Lines in United States). Those interested in learning more about Sassoon and Owen’s time at the Scottish asylum for patients with shell shock (neurasthenia), might wish to borrow the DVD or video from a public or college library.
  • Look at some of the seven extant archival manuscripts of “Anthem for Doomed Youth” on the First World War Digital Archive, taking note of significant variants.
  • The Modernism Lab site at Yale University also has an interesting section on “Dulce et Decorum Est”.
  • Ian Brinton has written an excellent booklet on Wilfred Owen for the English Association. He discusses eight poems altogether, and we provide the links to those poems in our open text.
  • “Exposure” 
  • “Insensibility”
  • “The Send-Off” 
  • “Strange Meeting”


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English Literature: Victorians and Moderns Copyright © 2014 by James Sexton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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