Today in class, we discussed Aymo’s virgins. Many commented that while Hemingway appears to want Aymo to be seen as a good man, he ends up using his power to tease the girls and it scares them. Some said he was not a good man for doing this and that it was disgusting. I personally believe that he is a good man in that he is protecting them, but that it was wrong for him to tease them and that if he had continued to push it, he would not be a good man. Do you think Aymo is a good person or a bad person and why?
In the books that we have read in class, the women on the front end up being seen as something for the men to use for pleasure. The nurses are seen as healers, but also a means of pleasure. Trix in Not So Quiet… tells her sister that if the men do not flirt with you, then something is wrong with you. Women are also paid for sex, whether they are from a brothel or not. Paul ends up paying the French girls with bread in order to feed them in return for sex. Frederick comments that, while on his vacation, he had ended up haggling about the price of having sex with the women he slept with. The idea of women as objects just for sex is largely prevalent in war literature.
Catherine tells Frederick that she does not want their time together to be a nurse’s night off, meaning she does not want to sleep with him like he seems to expect. While in the end, Catherine does consent to have sex with Frederick, she switches between her ideals and he continues to push her to always accept. Is Frederick to forceful and can Catherine’s agreement to have sex count as true consent because of her feelings of grief as well as her precarious mental state, as shown by her sudden changes in emotion and personality?
Right before the retreat, the men end up seeing some of the new girls from the brothel being loaded into a car and talk about how they would want to have a night with them, saying “I’d like to have a crack at them for nothing” and that the house charges to much for them to sleep with the women (Hemingway 189). This scene is less than ten pages from where Frederick and his men pick up the virgins. Do you believe that Aymo was doing more than just teasing the girls, especially by giving them food, something that Paul does with the French girls to pay for their service? Do you believe that the girls had a real reason to fear the men? Do you think Hemingway put the scene of the women from the brothels near the scene with the virgins for a reason? Also, based on how the other two books have portrayed women on the front as being seen as largely for sex, that these girls may end up becoming like the French girls later on if they cannot find their family or are captured?
I believe that Hemingway put the two scenes of the brothel girls and the virgins close together to get readers to think about this idea, but to also show that Aymo is a good man by not forcing himself on them even though they had recently commented about wanting to have sex, even if he was still wrong and not a good person for teasing and terrifying the girls. I believe that the virgins do have something to fear, if not from Frederick and the ambulance drivers, at least from some of the other soldiers based on their reactions to what is being said and done. It can be seen that they understand that food can be used as a form of payment for sex, so they have some form of knowledge about the idea of women on the front. Do you think this knowledge is from stories they have heard or do you believe they may have witnessed other girls their age selling their bodies in order to get food and money? I feel it is likely a combination of both based on where they are as well as how large this idea is in the other works we have read for class. I do not think that they will end up like the French girls, based on that they are moving away from the front. However, I do believe that they should still worry as they are on the front and they are now going off by themselves. While I believe that in the end they did not have anything to fear from Aymo and the other drivers, I do not see Aymo as a good man for teasing them and I worry that their fear may become a reality based on where they are and how they are now alone until they can rejoin the group of civilians they saw.