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Life After Destruction: War in the 21st Century

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Kirandeep Bajwa

on 7 January 2015

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Transcript of Life After Destruction: War in the 21st Century

Sophie's Choice

1. “She was feeling her way. In every sense of the word having experienced rebirth, she possessed some of the lassitude and, as a matter of fact, a great deal of the helplessness of a newborn child. Her clumsiness was like that of a paraplegic regaining the use of her limbs. Small things... still confounded her. She had forgotten how to connect the two sides of the zipper on a jacket she had been given. Her maladroit fumblings appalled her, and once she burst into tears when, trying to squeeze out some cosmetic lotion from an ordinary plastic tube, she applied such careless force that the stuff gushed out all over her and ruined a new dress.... Occasionally she ached in her bones, her shins and ankles mainly, and her walk still had a hesitancy which seemed connected with the spiritlessness and fatigue that often overtook her and which she desperately hoped would go away...” (97).
So to what extent is war evident in the 21st century?
How many times will I mention the words “trauma”, “life", and "war”?
Well, what's the issue?
Post-world war complications
plague William Styron's Sophie's Choice, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, and even our current world.
A prevailing issue found in both novels and today is
the struggle to adapt to life or adopt normalcy after the horrors of war and the loss of humanity.
can't seem to move on with their lives
in the aftermath of all the traumatic circumstances they have had to face.
become aware of the reality of life, often too late, and become disillusioned with living.
This becomes a
in their struggle to reintegrate back into a society trying for peace to or to the life of a normal, working civilian.
Whether it is bearing the
psychological scars
of combat, adjusting to
changing roles in society
, or even wishing for
military life
when returning to the
tedious and mundane aspects of day to day life
, war ensures that individuals remain reminiscent of only
Apart from the fact that characters in both novels decided to end their lives because they could not adjust to life, what other similarities do the novels share?
The protagonist of the novel, Sophie Zawistowska, is
forced to make a decision between the lives and death of her children at Auschwitz
; she allows her son,
, to
, and in the process, must send her daughter,
, to her
Coupled with the atrocities she witnessed and faced there, she is riddled with
She finds a lover in an alluring, but
abusive and destructive man, Nathan Landeau
, and develops a
toxic dependency
to him.
He holds a grudge against Sophie for having experienced the Holocaust, as
she was a Polish-Catholic
, while
he, a Jewish American, was barred from being involved in it
After spending much of their turbulent relationship suffering for their mistakes and
struggling to start live anew
, their inability to adapt to life after the Second World War culminates in their
Mrs. Dalloway and the tragedy of suicide
Mrs. Dalloway chronicles the characters of Septimus and Clarissa within the span of a day.
Septimus, after having a
close friend die in the Great War
suffering shell shock
, cannot adjust to post-war London.
His illness, identified as
prevents him from rebuilding his life
, as he descends further into his madness.
Although a former soldier, he is
no longer enamoured with war
and questions its purposes.
blames society
human nature
for his impending death.
In committing suicide, he
preserves his individuality as a final act of defiance
, but is only able to accomplish that through death. Clarissa, who is of a
higher status
, struggles to adapt to
conventional English and feminine roles
Instead of adopting new ideals, traditional societal ideals have been preserved in her case; her
role in society is set
plays hostess to the parties she plans
, as it is expected of her, but it is after
Septimus' suicide
that she r
ealizes the purpose of life and death
Life After Destruction: War in the 21st Century
With a brief comparison of William Styron's Sophie's Choice and Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway
To adapt to a post-war society, to adopt a new one or to forfeit one's life?
Sophie's Choice? What exactly was Sophie's choice?
2. “... Beautiful Irma Griese got the rope for personally killing x-thousands of Jews at Auschwitz but didn't logic dictate a lot of little Irma Grieses getting away, I mean what about this funny little Polish nafka I'm shacked up with, that is could she truly be one hundred percent true-blue Polack.... Why don't you admit it, Irma! You played footsie with the SS, didn't you? Isn't that how you got out of Auschwitz, Irma? Admit it!” (Styron 364).
3. “My dearest Stingo, your such a beautiful Lover I hate to leave and forgive me for not saying Good-bye but I must go back to Nathan. Believe me you will find some wunderful Mademoiselle to make you happy on the Farm. I am so fond of you—you must not think bei this I am being cruel. But when I woke I was feeling so terrible and in Despair about Nathan, bei that I mean so filled with Gilt and thoughts of Death it was like Eis Ice flowing in my Blut. So I must be with Nathan again for whatever that mean. I may not see you again but do believe me how much knowing you have meaned to me. Your a great Lover Stingo. I feel so bad, I must go now. Forgive my poor englisch. I love Nathan but now feel this Hate of Life and God. FUCK God and all his Hande Werk. And Life too. And even what remain of Love. Sophie” (Styron 545).
Mrs. Dalloway
1. “Much rather would she have been one of those people like Richard who did things for themselves, whereas, she thought, waiting to cross, half the time she did things not simply, not for themselves; but to make people think this or that.... But often now this body she wore... with all its capacities, seemed nothing – nothing at all. She had the oddest sense of being herself invisible; unseen; unknown; there had been no more marrying, no more having of children now, but only this astonishing and rather solemn progress with the rest of them, up Bond Street, this being Mrs. Dalloway; not even Clarissa any more; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway” (Woolf 9).
2. “But he himself remained high on his rock, like a drowned sailor on a rock. I leant over the edge of the boat and fell down, he thought. I went under the sea. I have been dead, and yet am now alive, but let me rest still he begged (he was talking to himself again – it was awful, awful!); and as, before waking, the voices of the birds and the sound of wheels chime and chatter in a queer harmony, grow louder and louder, and the sleeper feels himself drawing to the shores of life, so he felt himself drawing towards life, the sun growing hotter, cries sounding louder, something tremendous about to happen” (Woolf 76).
3. “'So you're in a funk,' he said agreeably, sitting down by his patient's side. He had actually talked of killing himself to his wife, quite a girl, a foreigner, wasn't she? Didn't that give her a very odd idea of English husbands? Didn't one owe perhaps a duty to one's wife? Wouldn't it be better to do something instead of lying in bed? For he had had forty years' experience behind him; and Septimus could take Dr. Holmes's word for it – there was nothing whatever the matter with him” (Woolf 102).
How is this relevant to our society today?
Very random clip #1
Atonement (2007)
Artifact #1
A song
Hell Broke Luce by Tom Waits (2011)
Very random clip #2

Forrest Gump (1994)
Artifact #2
A commercial
The Royal Dutch Guide Dog Foundation (KNGF) commercial for veteran dogs (2013-2014)
Very random clip #3
The Hurt Locker (2008)
Soldier returns from war and shops at a grocery store
Artifact #3
An article
"'Isn't Losing An Eye Enough?' Battered Veterans Struggle To Restart Their Lives After War", David Wood, The Huffington Post (2014)
Very random clip #4
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Artifact #4
A movie trailer
Fort Bliss (2014)
Last random clip
The Deer Hunter (1978)
A minor connection
While finding media sources, I thought of Brooks from The Shawshank Redemption. Although he didn't participate in the war, he cannot adjust to a world that does not care for rehabilitated criminals, and so commits suicide. He doesn't have a purpose outside Shawshank state prison, as it was his home for many years. When he is released, he feels lonely and isolated from society and devoid of purpose.

The effects of war to leave individuals disillusioned with life and struggling to adapt to their circumstances is evident to this day.
The trauma of war has left countless people unable to live their lives normally, sometimes culminating in suicide and mostly leaving them vulnerable to the plights of life.
War, when it is not already killing people, leads many individuals to self-destruct later on. Fortunately, the 21st century now has the resources to allow individuals to succeed and prosper after facing trauma both directly and indirectly due to war.
While we cannot guarantee the end of war, society has at least adjusted to recognize its negative and prevailing effects on individuals and the states in which it renders them.
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