Wednesday, April 04, 2007

War: Effects & Shell-shock

The soldiers:

“He only drinks because he’s shell-shocked. He’s not man enough else, the unclean little Nonconformist (Ford, 359)”.

“Mckechnie’s face worked convulsively, he swallowed as men are said to swallow who suffer from hydrophobia (450)”. Mckenchie is a psychological victim of the war, from the very beginning Christopher judges him to be a mad lunatic, “There were a great many kinds of madness. But what kind was this? The fellow was not drunk. He talked like a drunkard, by the was not drunk (298)”.

“The prevailing mood of those who had been for some time in the trenches was one of acute melancholia; the foul conditions, the constant danger, and the lack of sleep produced such mental depression that the troops felt no desire to kill anyone except their well-dressed proper generals, who were more at home on the narrow path of virtue than on the narrow duckboards of the trenches (Lytton, 197).”

As demonstrated in C.S. Forrester’s The General, the generals had no qualms about ordering their troops to slaughter, for a valiant purpose. Under the command of these generals, the army of the old tradition is completely wiped out. The soldier’s greatest threat is perhaps not the enemy before him, but the general behind him who will order him forward to his death.

In turn, the officer class must face other challenges, namely those from home.

“Heavy depression settled down more heavily upon him. The distrust of the home Cabinet, felt by then by the greater part of that army, became like physical pain (Ford, 297)”.


“His tiny hands seemed about to fall off at the wrists; his temples shuddered with neuralgia (371)”. The war had far reaching effects, even on soldiers and officers who were not on immediate front line. Christopher suffers from fatigue, shedding sleep in favour of duty. The incident of O Nine Morgan makes an impression on him that stays with him for the rest of the war; it becomes an “accursed obsession (484)”. The thought of the death, the noise, and the mud is enough to drive him insane. When the general reveals his plan to send him up the line, Christopher’s senses are overwhelmed with the remembrance of noise and mud.

Lyton, Neville. The English Country Gentleman. London : Hurst & Blackett, 1925

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