What are you all’s overall thoughts on Borden now that we finished The Forbidden Zone?

I was talking with Morgan a little about this and I’m curious to see what everyone else thinks.

Personally, I think I liked it. The book  evoked such a visceral reaction from me that often times I couldn’t tell whether I was angry or happy  just have gotten the chance to read  I text that made me feel so strongly.

Did anyone have any similar reactions?

The Grey

So during class today we wrote on the board “war profits” as a major topic in the text, but I feel like we didn’t go into it in A Farewell to Arms as much as we did others. That being said, I couldn’t help myself from being a total reject of a student during my sociology class and only thinking about the questions I had about it.

I think one of the reasons I like this book particularly more than the others we’ve read this semester is because Hemingway does a fantastic job of writing the grey. Frederic Henry is a grey character. He joined the war because he happened to be in Italy and he happened to speak Italian and he shows no real commitment or tie to anything. He is neither black nor white because he doesn’t feel a strong connection to any real part of the war or any consequence thereof and it was this realization that got me thinking.

The other characters in the text bring up the question of who profits from the war and we don’t get a strong response from Henry. In fact, he is one of the first people in the books we’ve read this semester that hasn’t really explained to us either his patriotism or nationalism (for all the confusion the pair offers). This is nothing short of puzzling to me.

Logically, America would’ve been one of the few nations to have profited off of the war. They entered the fighting late which must’ve already saved the American people a lot of money, but on top of that, they’ve had to have supplied some type of weaponry or finances to the countries at war or it would’ve risked jeopardizing previous alliances. So while these men are discussing in front of Henry’s character the idea that someone profits, I wonder if Henry was considering the profit his own nation gained or if he was simply being blissfully ignorant?

I think one of the most dangerous things we see in either of the world wars is this conflation of patriotism and nationalism and Hemingway’s decision to write Henry as a character who is either blissfully ignorant or completely and totally unwilling to acknowledge the threat of his own country to the lives of other people is both (if intentional) masterful and disheartening…or perhaps I’m just reading into things a little too much…

Birds and Battle

I’m sitting in my living room typing this post from my phone and trying to cope with this movie I just finished watching.

For my film review (don’t worry this isn’t it) I watched the film Beneath Hill 60 (so so good. Do yourselves a favor and watch it. Side note: it’s free on YouTube but you didn’t hear that from me) which is about an Australian group of miners during the war. In some of the very beginning scenes, I was puzzled hence this post.

Several of the mining tunnels they had constructed had small cages hanging on the walls with pigeons and canaries or “budgies” in them. I asked my family of movie buffs and history freaks why this was and the answer, though seemingly simple, shocked me.

Today we have machines that detect gases that shouldn’t be in our homes. There are carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors and probably dozens more for dozens other reasons, but during WW1, these machines didn’t exist. Underground, the likelihood of pockets of these gases was extremely great. Miners could be digging tunnels and mine into one or (as we discussed before) mine into pockets of gas that had seeped into the ground after being used. Because a small bird’s body is more delicate than a humans, the miners used these birds to detect if they were nearing pockets of gas. If the bird got sick or died, the miners knew they were in danger.

Similarly, running out of oxygen in the tunnels was a great possibility so often times the miners would light candles to test how much oxygen was in the tunnel. Tall flames meant lots of oxygen and dim lights meant alarmingly small amount.

I haven’t had any chance to look up any further information online since, as I said before, still trying to come to terms with the end of what I just witnessed, but I thought the resourcefulness of these people was incredible and mandated a share.

An Odd Appreciation of Death

In both All Quiet on the Western Front and Not So Quiet, we see such an odd appreciation for the escape from war death brings. In All Quiet, Paul and Kat see the dying recruit and consider shooting him to putting him out of his misery. In Not So Quiet, Helen sees in chapter two that one of the men she was transporting in her ambulance has died and says “He died as the stretcher-bearers lifted him out. I was glad…Out of hell at last” (Smith 40).

This disturbing appreciation of death is really jarring to me. Did anyone else have any similar reactions?

Florence: The Schedule

Friends, the schedule has been updated on Canvas and HERE.

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LGW: Time to Enlist

August 1918. In the Hundred Days Offensive, the US has been fighting alongside the Allies to end the brutal and exhausting conflict that is playing out across the globe; the Marines have spent the summer in the infamous Belleau Wood. The “Spanish Flu” epidemic is gaining strength; it  has been detected in a US military camp and eventually will kill more than 20 million men, women, and children. Russia is in chaos; the Bolsheviks, bolstered by anti-war sentiment, have recently murdered the Czar and the Romanov family. Yet in just a few months, the guns will fall quiet: the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, nearly four years later than experts initially predicted the end of the Great War.

How did the men and women of the First World War experience and record their experiences in this fundamental moment of modernity? How does our own distance, a century beyond the world’s baptism into mechanized killing, both enable and hamper our understanding of that experience, and what do we learn from The War to End All Wars?  I hope our semester is the beginning but not the end of your work considering those questions.