Books, Boots, and Babies

Shout out to that reference about the Magic Treehouse series. Those books were my childhood!!! I still remember the day I got Christmas in Camelot thinking it was the coolest thing ever. The books we passed around today were interesting as all I think were published before the war even started. This was a bit puzzling to me as I thought at least on the American side the war happened suddenly and we didn’t really know it was going to start. Also, the books being gender specific was intriguing though I did notice inscribed in one of the books supposedly for boys was “To Marilyn from mother”. The books also reminded me a lot of the Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys novels I read when I was younger. Personally, though I don’t read much children’s fiction anymore I think we have gotten away from the labels of “only boys” or “only girls” at least in literature and I don’t know why that is. Perhaps it is a more conscious effort now especially in our generation.

I thought it was interesting how we talked today about selective blindness when it comes to the characters in the books but also ourselves. When Professor Scanlon said something along the lines of  “But, I need shoes don’t I” when referring to child labor I immediately thought of the scene in All Quiet On The Western Front when Kemmerich is dying and Muller wants his boots. At first I thought that scene was really insensitive but as we go on I can see how the mindset in war is often survival first, sympathy later. But I really raise the question of how when basic needs are placed before manners but more importantly morals what does that do to the human experience. Such actions have dire consequences as I think if we place our own needs ahead of another all the time where does the line get drawn? I know wars must be fought in some cases but sometimes it seems like much of the violence could be avoided or at least the truth seen if we placed ourselves in other people’s shoes, both literally and figuratively witnessed in both our books so far.

Childhood had a big role to play in our discussion today. Many of those who went to fight were boys not men. Again and again we keep seeing comparisons to infants and children. Indirectly today, the child labor reference eerily connected perfectly to the passage we read about the Nellie’s mother wanted another mother’s son to burn alive. I think this is because of how much we have become desensitized towards ethics when it comes to human life. Yes, you could argue the circumstances are different when a country is at war but isn’t it interesting how we don’t consider oppression in factories in the same realm of tragedy. Those kids most likely die at the same rates of those on the battlefields in our book. They are at least maimed like many of the soldiers in our novels. Besides that there is also the connection that both groups get their youth taken away from them but only one gets international media representation. It really made me think about some of the modern questions we are facing when we consider the sanctity of life. Such examples would be abortion, euthanasia, or the death penalty to name a few. I think we as a society have always determined what makes a life “valuable”. But now for the first time and in a very morbid sense I am seeing in the books we are reading the opposite. That in the midst of such horrible violence, there is still a humanity that can be seen and our characters are responding to that. They are nameless faces to us as readers and to those on the home-front but not to our characters if they chose to see beyond the abstractions, into real hearts.

Leave a Reply