A Look At Ernest Hemingway’s “Soldier’s Home” Compared To Wwi And Shell Shock

1947 words - 8 pages

Christopher HardyEnglish 11T.WechtDecember 23, 2009No Home for a SoldierWorld War One (WWI) was arguably the most costly conflict in human history. With over "one third of men returning home" with serious mental ailments, this war had effects long after the armistice treaty (World War I Document Archive 18). This war lasted well past the signing of the treaty and went on to spark the beginning of the Second World War in 1939. Veterans were plagued with sickness long after the effects of the gas wore off and long after the guns fell silent, and to this day photographs of the trenches send chills down the spine of any man. WWI conjures up images of a no man's l ...view middle of the document...

This massive use of chemical agents could not be kept up without assistance from the home front's ability to produce. Factories that had previously been producing civilian products along the lines of industrial cleaners or wood stains were converted to produce deadly chemical agents. As a result, more than 124,000 tons of gas were produced by the end of WWI. Official figures claim about "1,176,500 non-fatal casualties and 85,000 fatalities" caused by chemical warfare agents during the course of the war (Wilmot 57). Chemical weapons were relativity new to the battle field and were not fully understood by the generals of each side. This resulted in primitive and often dangerous use of chemical weapons. They were released in several different ways, with the most common being compressed gas canisters opened from one trench and blown by the wind to another. They were also sealed into shells that were bombarded upon the enemy. The issue with both major methods of distribution was that it was extremely dependant on the wind, if the wind were to shift for even a few minutes the gas would be upon the friendly trenches causing massive friendly fire damage. When a man breathed in the gasses there was a vast amount of reactions he could have, because generally each person had slightly unique reflexes. The most common and widespread affect of chemical agents was the blistering of the skin as though it was on fire. Chemical agents are generally irritants, acidic substances on the skin; that would eat away at any exposed soft tissue and eventually work its way into the clothing of a soldier. Once inhaled the chemical would wreak havoc on the victim's entire physiological being. When in the lungs the agent would cause massive bleeding and inhibit the lung's ability to accept oxygen. This bleeding caused the victim to drown in his own blood. If the gas managed to infiltrate a man's stomach it would eat away at the inner lining until the contents spilled out into the man's body cavity, resulting in a very painful death. Ironically the main impact of chemical weapons was not the men they killed but the men they spared. Unlike bullet wounds that healed, leaving a person looking relatively the same, chemical weapons left long lasting cosmetic effects on its victims. Soldiers who were exposed suffered grizzly burns on every body part that was exposed leaving the victim looking almost sub-human for his entire life. Indeed the outward effects of the gas were extremely present, however the larger consequence of the gas attacks were mental. This mental consequence, often referred to as "Shell Shock" by the men in the trenches, is known today as PTSD.PTSD in WWI was a direct result of the intense fighting and horrid death that the average soldier was exposed to on a regular basis. Symptoms often did not manifest until weeks or sometimes months after the event and could be trigged by seemingly benign occurrences. Mustard gas with its signature yellow color, for instan...


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