So I just started the first short story reading for next class and at the end, I was absolutely incensed! The coroner’s note, advising other young men after Hall’s suicide that they “had no right to expect that they should drop into easy jobs” and that they should “come to their senses” because “life is not all sky-larking” absolutely shocked me (Arlington 91). I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because there both sides–the home front and and war front–suffered great losses and endured great sacrifices. However, the complete lack of understanding and empathy for men whose entire identities have been shaped and molded by serving years in constant combat was grotesque. I know that even today, although it’s definitely getting better, there is a misconception with mental illness. This reminded me of what people often say about depression: just get up, moving, socialize and you’ll be better. It’s scary to see such a parallel.

4 thoughts on “Aldington

  1. I totally agree with this. People back then, and even now a little bit, had virtually no understanding or acceptance of mental illnesses. We saw this too when we watched the shell shock video and how a lot of doctors believed people to be faking just so they could get leave, leaving many people to go untreated back into the trenches. The letter at the end of this short story really struck me as well. It shows to me that the people in charge would go to whatever lengths to glorify the war and to not blame the war for what it had done, but to blame the people. Most propaganda was also like this in how they guilted people into feeling like their injuries were their own fault or because they were simply lazy, like in Nellie’s case in Not So Quiet.

  2. The way that the coroner talked it reminded me of the way Nellie’s family and others on the home front talked. The amount of scorn in his words was maddening. Then he talked about how “They must realize that the civilian population had gone without necessities to give them comforts.” as if they had it so cushy out there fighting for their lives in the trenches. He truly did not understand anything about the war and what these people had been through. I hadn’t thought about how it relates to now with the treatment of mental illness and that’s incredibly sad that in all this time some people still think it’s easy to bounce back from, as if it is not a legitimate illness.

  3. That part of the reading really shocked me too. I know shell-shock wasn’t recognized at that point, but with so many soldiers having similar symptoms…they should’ve realized that it was a problem. Plus, the quote “a little honest work” at the very end felt like a huge kick to the gut. The sacrifice those soldiers made wasn’t honest enough? They either died or lived the rest of their lives affected by trauma like the narrator here and Paul, since knew he would’ve faced it if he had survived. It makes me wonder if the coroner would’ve worded his statement differently if he was a soldier.

  4. I remember being incensed at the ending too, They made it sound like the men had it so good on the front- “extravagant living” I believe was the term used- which goes to show the sheer ignorance of the people back home. It calls back to Not So Quiet, with Nellie’s mother saying she hopes they use lots of a fire bombs (or whatever they were). They have idealized images of what life was like on the front, when we know it was an absolute nightmare for all sides. These soldiers are, in a way, victims– and yet they’re being blamed for their conditions. I’m glad empathy for soldiers has improved since that time.

Leave a Reply