- The mud becomes a signifier for Christopher’s entrapment in the chaos of war. His fear stems from the event in Part III Ch. II wherein Major-General Campion, wishes to send him up the line to General Perry’s army. He realizes that it is “certain death” (476), and this prompts images of mud. The mud becomes a source of psychological anxiety.
“…the extraordinary living conditions of trench warfare were seldom evoked as contributory to shell shock. Mud, hunger, fatigue, chronic sicknesses, often continual damp, lice, and rats were seldom mentioned as possible contributors to the soldiers’ state. Even so astute an observer and therapist as Rivers (1918) preferred an essentially psychological model of causality, deriving the symptoms of war neurosis from the degree of immobility demanded of the soldier in his combat task. A fuller appreciation of the roles that might be played in symptom generation by environmental factors in the combat zone was not to come until World War II. (
“…back to the frozen rifle, the ground-sheet on the liquid mud, the desperate suction on the ankle as the foot was advanced (331)”.
- “There it was then: the natural catastrophe! As when, under thunder, a dam breaks. His mind was battling with the waters. What would it pick out as the main terror? The mud, the noise, dread always at the back of the mind (Ford, 477).” The mud is associated with the battling of waters; after the dam breaks the onslaught of water brings with it the danger of drowning. As we know, mud was a serious problem in trench warfare and soldiers were known to drown in it. The mud elicits from Christopher a sort of mute terror.
- “Tietjens’ mind missed a notch again… It was the fear of the mud that was going to obsess him. Yet, curiously, he had never been under heavy fire in mud… You would think that would not have obsessed him. But in this ear he had just heard uttered in a whisper of intense weariness, the words: Es ist nicht zu ertragen; es ist das dasz uns verloren hat… words in German, of utter despair, meaning: it is unbearable: it is that that has ruined us… The mud! (486).”
- “… A beginning of some November… With a miracle of unshine; not a cloud, the mud towering up shut you in intimately with a sky that arched for limpidity (486).”
Marlowe, David H. http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/library/randrep/marlowe_paper/mr1018_11_ch5.html