War and Gender
Comparative of How British and German Soldiers Were Viewed in Society Post World War I: Physical and Psychological Traumas
While the governments of each country were figuring out how to come back from World War One peacefully, returning soldiers were dealing with the traumas endured during their time at the war front. Wilfred Owens, a poet of World War One, writes, “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.”[footnoteRef:1] Owens depiction of World War One, which lies in his poetry, illustrates the horrors of the war front. The phrase “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” means that it is sweet and seemly to die for one’s country. Owens refers to this saying as an “old lie” because it was simply not the case. Life in the trenches was not a happy one and the men living there were constantly under the pressure of being killed. Soldiers witnessed horrific experiences at the war front that would follow them back to the society they had once been a part of. These traumas consisted of both physical and mental disabilities that left these men feeling emasculated and incapable. The integration of these men back into society posed a challenge in the post war period. Britain was seen as victorious, while Germany was seen as defeated, yet the soldiers received the same backlash from their home fronts. Although there were different outcomes for both countries, British and German soldiers deemed as suffering from shellshock or enduring physical disabilities were shunned by both their societies. [1: inkler, Martin M. ""Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori?" Classical Literature in the War Film." International Journal of the Classical Tradition 7, no. 2 (2000): 177-214. ]
Life at the British home front was not unbearable, but the people were going through a gender crisis that they had not experienced before. When World War One began, a numerous amount of British men had to leave their jobs to go fight for their country. This meant that women had to take on the role and the responsibilities of being a mother and a father. The mother would become the caretaker and the breadwinner, but only for the time being. Historian Janet Watson sheds light on how the women who took on military jobs and munitions work perceived themselves. “Many VADs explicitly equated their service in the wards with the service of their brothers and men friends in the trenches.”[footnoteRef:2] Women saw themselves as equal to men, which had not been the case before the war. The government and most British people were expecting soldiers to return to their original roles in society when the war ended. Women’s work and loyalty was needed during the war, but once it ended they too were expected to return to their original roles as mothers. As the war neared its end and soldiers began to return home, these roles did not entirely go b...