November 3rd, 2014
An Examination of the Effects of War Displayed in Vern Theissen’s “Vimy”
Often when we hear the word “war”, the first things that come to mind are guns and violence. Rarely do we think of the effects of war. Participating in war can leave a lasting impact on the soldiers who are fighting. The play Vimy, by Vern Theissen, exemplifies how the negative effects of WWI are not only physical, but also, emotional and mental, thereby changing the lives of these involved in battle forever.
The first and most obvious negative effect of WWI showed in Vimy is the physical effect. The play takes place in a hospital during WWI. Each soldier has some sort of physical injury, the worst of which include: lung problems due to a gas attack, shrapnel, and tuberculosis (TB). In WWI, a common strategy used on the soldiers was the gas attack. We learn this when the author says, “Mike, he suffers from the effects of a gas attack” (Theissen, 2). Another common injury showed in Vimy is shrapnel. Shrapnel comes from being shot or hit from pieces of metal in an explosion. Shrapnel was very difficult to remove from a person. Will is a character who suffers this in his upper body. The final and worst physical effect of WWI shown in Vimy is tuberculosis (TB). TB is caused by gas attacks or from breathing contaminated air (from rotting corpses or fecal matter). TB usually leads to death as we can see when the character Sid, ends up dying from the disease. We can see through these examples that negative physical effects are clearly one of the side effects that come with fighting in war. Moreover, the second harmful effect of WWI showed in Vimy is the mental component. Mental effects that are exposed in the play include: flashbacks, nightmares, and shell shock. In the play, most of the soldiers have flashbacks to when they were in battle. The two soldiers who have these very often are Mike and Jean-Paul (J-P). These two characters experience this because of a loss of a relative or a close friend that was killed in the war. These losses had such an impact on them that they frequently have flashbacks to when they were alive together. The death of J-P’s friend (Claude) had a greater impact on him because he believes that he was the one who killed Claude. We see this by looking at a quote from J-P in the play: “My hands, they smell like blood” (69). This refers not to the fact that J-P killed enemies in the war; it refers more to the belief that J-P killed his best friend. Furthermore, he thinks that his hands are stained with the blood of Claude and for this he feels guilt. Another effect on the soldiers is nightmares, which often happens with Sid. Sid frequently awakens from sleep scared and stressed due to loud noises, which he thinks are guns and bombs. The final mental effect is shell shock. Shell shock can come from living in prolonged paranoia or pressure, which clearly happens if you fight in war. Shell shock affects your brain and influences how you act. Shell shock can even end in death because it can cause extreme depression leading to suicide. J-P suffers from this condition. Mental backlash can be one of the worst effects of war because it can never heal or go away and these can impact your life forever.
The mental damage that war causes goes hand in hand with the final and worst effect of war: the emotional effect. The emotional consequences of war can be the cruelest because they leave long-lasting scars that will never heal. Emotional effects shown in the play are love, loss (death) and guilt. The first emotional