Mary Borden- A Brief Note about “The Beach”

For my Website Recon, one of the sites I went to discussed how men who’d had their faces reconstructed, despite surgical success, still could not get past the trauma. They would still hide themselves away or be too ashamed to be around their friends and family.

“The Beach” reminded me greatly of this. While the man in the story has had an amputation, he still finds it hard to be around his wife and reconciling what has happened to him. He can’t stand to be around her- almost disgusted by her perfection- but at the same time he doesn’t want to lose her. It’s interesting to get this kind of POV– aside from Nellie’s fiance, I don’t think we’ve seen the inner thoughts of a wounded soldier in these novels. Henry was wounded, but he made a full physical recovery and was sent back to the front. I doubt the soldier in “The Beach” is going anywhere any time soon.

What do you all think Borden was trying to do by providing this point of view?

Kiki’s Report on the Websites “BBC 10 WWI Inventions” and “BBC Facial Reconstruction”

For my website reconnaissance, I was given the task of reviewing two World War I websites–  or more specifically, one BBC article and one BBC interactive guide on World War 1.

The first site was “BBC 10 WWI Inventions,” consisting of a list-article by Stephen Evans. The article goes over various inventions that emerged during or around the war period, and how the war promoted their success. This includes but is not limited to the wristwatch, tea bags, stainless steel, and Daylight Savings Time. Overall, the article clearly delivers it’s points, and does so with a hint of humor that keeps the reader more engaged than the average textbook would. It is interesting to see what inventions came about because the war demanded it, or were simply a side effect of the war on the rest of the world. For example, wristwatches came into prominence because pocket watches were inconvenient to pull out in battle. If I had to determine any kind of weakness in the article site, it would be in its simplicity. No matter how entertaining it is to read, you can’t get past the fact it’s just a list, and the information presented is pretty short. I think it could have benefited from more in-depth information, with more examples of war-influenced progress. Additionally, the web page itself is sparse – white space and black text- and there are few photos of the actual inventions presented. The article mostly uses pictures of their modern counterparts, and couple that with the lack of design, it all appears lazy.  

The second site I was presented with was “BBC Facial Reconstruction.” The guide goes on to describe how, during WWI, it was not uncommon for men to be disfigured by flying shrapnel. With help from a doctor named Harold Guiles, facial reconstruction became a vital part of healing after the war for soldiers, even if the method took some time to perfect. The information provided is clear, concise, and honest, as history should be. It doesn’t just note the successes, but also the failures– just because a man’s face was fixed didn’t mean there weren’t psychological scars. At the same time, the setup of the website is done extremely well– there are tabs at the top of the page that allow readers to easily skip to certain parts of the guide, making for easier navigation. Additionally, each part is accompanied with a supplemental video that provides more information for the reader should they desire it. And unlike the previous article, there are helpful images provided– photos of men whose faces were damaged, and while graphic in nature, they do accentuate the text. To top it all off, the bottom of the page provides additional links to related guides and articles, such as how the war drove the field of plastic surgery. The website is inclusive, easy to explore, and provides multiple methods of acquiring information. The only visible weakness is that aside for the video links, there are no warnings about the graphic images used. While they are an excellent addition to their sections, there are individuals who would find them distressing. A visitor to the site should have better forewarning going in.

In conclusion, these two sites are decent sources of specific WWI information with relatively minor weaknesses. They are suited for those interested in these topics.

Word Count: 554
I pledge: Kiaran Pethokoukis

Reactions to Death in the End

A common occurrence with these novels is the protagonist witnessing the death of another right before the end of said novel. With Paul it was his friend Kat, for Nellie it was the other cooks, and for Henry it was (spoiler alert) Catherine. What I found interesting was the way they reacted to the deaths.

Paul spent the time in denial, acting as if Kat had merely fallen unconscious and eventually walked away numbly. Nellie was completely numb to it the entire time. Henry was the only one to completely break down internally, bargaining with God to ensure Catherine’s survival (pg 330).

It’s a common theme that war experience changes a person. Here’s an opening for discussion: how different was Henry’s experience with the war in comparison to Nellie and Paul’s, in that he reacted in a such a way to Catherine dying? Was it the war experience, or was the in-the-moment situation the deciding factor for his reaction?

The Military Hospital

Can we talk about how Henry’s medical leave was depicted in contrast to how such things were in the other novels?

Paul got holed up in that church hospital, where orderlies had to be flagged down and there were rumors of a room they brought men to die in. Henry got a total of four doctors to look at his knee, massages, baths, and chances to visit the town’s restaurants and horse races. It was as though he were on vacation instead of recuperating from injured legs.

What do you think Hemingway is trying to say by presenting Henry’s recovery to us this way?

“How could you be my enemy?”

I want to open a spot for discussion here.

In chapter nine, Paul achieves his first personal kill in the war by mortally wounding a French soldier. Instead of leaving him to die, however, Paul is overcome with immense guilt and tries to make the man’s passing comfortable- or about as comfortable you can be on the battlefield.

The point of interest is the little speech he gives after the soldier dies. He claims to have finally seen that this man wasn’t just an enemy soldier, but a person with a family and a life just like him.

“Why do they never tell us that you poor devils are like us… that we have the same fear of death… how could you be my enemy?”

We have talked about desensitization and the “spell” of it being broken in class. Only instead of it happening at home, it’s happened to Paul on the battlefield. Despite everything Paul has been through at this point, has the war been made more real for him? Paul no longer considers himself a child- the war has changed him- but had he still held a certain ignorance that killing soldier killed as well? Does the fact he decides not to keep the promises he made the dead soldier subvert any sort of realization he may have had?