Essay Psychological Trauma and Wilfred Owen

Submitted By Armond-Marke
Words: 2302
Pages: 10

Pulling the Trigger The word "war" is short and simple however its definition is far more complex. War is defined as a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflicts between states or nations. World War I, World War II, and the recent war in Iraq has affected millions of lives around the globe. Families are broken, lives are lost, and in some cases the minds of veterans have lost a sense of reality because of the battles that the soldiers endured. Undergoing traumatic experiences like war, when soldiers see friends and enemies die in front of them, limbs are lost, and enemies are engaged, can only result in an accumulation of guilt and suffering. Imagine a soldier who is defending his country and amid the fighting, begins a battle with himself. Everyone has his breaking point and not all wounds are visible. Wether some might consider themselves weak or strong, a leader or a follower, brave or lacking in courage, the battle between a man with himself is a complicated disorder, not easily recognizable in warfare scenarios. The most common symptoms relating to this disorder are as follows: reliving the war through horrible memories, feeling numb, self-treating with alcohol or drugs, and feeling overly anxious, tense or apprehensive. Something as simple as a firework display on the Fourth of July, may trigger flashbacks of grenades going off and guns firing shells. It is the constant living in fear after going through shocking experiences, that raises questions about what is happening internally that someone cannot control themselves. Even after a war ends military personnel might fight another battle, weeks or even years later, the battle against shell shock. In World War I the term "shell shock" was used to describe a severe psychological disorder discovered among war veterans after they had gone through traumatic experiences during battle. Some labeled symptoms of shell shock as cowardice, or a way out, because, once diagnosed, unstable soldiers were sent to treatment centers or sent back home to gain mental stability. "In World War I America, rehabilitation symbolized a dream, a hope that physical "handicaps," "pauperism," and "defects of manhood" could all be conquered on the home front" (Linker 3). Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen were two men who both served as army officers and in poetry, expressed their horror. Of course, no combination of twenty-six different letters can ever capture more than a second-hand glimpse of what the soldiers encountered themselves, the reality of it. Both comrades met as patients in Craiglockhart War Hospital, a World War I rehabilitation center in Edinburgh, Scotland, for those suffering from shell shock. Sassoon and Owen were considered unfit to return to the front lines. During their stay, Sassoon became Owen's mentor in poetry, helping him revise his works. "Aftermath" is a poem by Sassoon describing the horrors suffered and the overwhelming guilt felt while on the battle front: Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz-- The night you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets? Do you remember the rats and the stench Of corpses rotting in from of the front-line trench--
 And dawn coming, dirty-white and chill with a hopeless rain? Do you ever stop and ask, 'Is it all going to happen again?' (qtd. in Saks lines, 10-15)
Supporting and similar experiences were encountered by Wilfred Owen as described in his poem "Dulce Et Decorum Est": Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
 Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
 But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
 And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…
 Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
 As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
 He plunges at me, guttering,