Faulks explores the loss characters undergo as not just emotional but physical realities. One of Stephens’s physical losses for example is the loss of his parents. Although this event does not happen throughout the course of the novel it is still a very significant one because it affects Stephen greatly. Whenever Stephen talks about his family history he seems reluctant to reveal too much “I never meet him” when talking about his father who “disappeared” when Stephen was born. An event which seems to make him bitter. The way in which Stephen answers Isabelle’s question makes it seem as though his father’s abandonment does not affect him when really it does. It is however not only Stephen that seems to be emotionally damaged, The reader soon learns that René (Isabelle’s husband) is embarrassed by his inability to father a child and beats Isabelle out of frustration whilst Isabelle’s emotional damage may possibly be affected by his reasons for beating her rather than the beatings themselves, “ he says it’s not my fault” but as a reader one gets a sense that Isabelle feels at least some level of responsibility for Rene’s infertility, perhaps it is because he has already fathered children so she may feel that it must be her fault that they have not had children yet. Stephen was an orphan and was raised by a guardian. It is arguable that Stephen sought love in Isabelle's arms because of the lack of love in his childhood. Both characters displays signs of emotional damage, Isabelle through René’s abuse and Stephen through the lack of parents, this can also be put forward as a reason for their affair. The loss of Stephens’s parents and Isabelle’s inability to bear a child for Rene which, is in its own way a form of loss helps the reader understand the characters at a deeper level Faulks tried to make the characters more realistic and to help the reader understand their decisions which is why he has done this.
When we come to 1916 we find that Stephens’s loss is a stark contrast to that of Jack Fibrace, a miner employed in the British trenches to listen for mines, dig tunnels and listen for opposing German tunnels. Jack fights because of the love he has for his son John, who is back at home in England. Jacks physical loss comes from the death of his son. When Jack’s son first dies, Jack seems to take it very well “we must be strong” the fact that Jack manages to take strength from the death of his son rather than giving up on life, especially because of the up and coming battle is a very stark contrast to Stephen, who takes no strength from his losses but lets them damage him. In his letter to Isabelle Stephen shows a rare sense of vulnerability “I am frightened of dying” although the reader finally sees Stephens true emotions surfacing he is still not taking any strength from his losses but letting them cripple him.Stephens character is hardened by war and contrasts with the emotional boy portrayed in the first chapter. Arguably being hardened by the war could be interpreted as a sign of taking strength from ones losses, however I believe that it is not a positive strength to take away with you once the war is over. In contrast to Stephen, Jack manages to take away a positive strength from the death of his son, he remains hopeful” I would have kept him but God knew best”. There is also a sense of foreshadowing in the death and birth of children in the book. Isabelle gives birth to Stephens’s daughter and he survives, however Jack’s son John dies followed by his own death. Although Stephen has suffered many losses he is not physically lost whereas Jack has suffered one loss but