What is controversial about Good-Bye to All That?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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What dogged the production of this text was the debate about how accurately this memoir reflected the "truth," or rather the disordered and rather chaotic sanity of its author. Critics at the time of this work's publication, and to a certain extent still now, value whether war memoirs are accurate in terms of their detailed presentation of what happened during battles or whether incidents that could have been merely isolated are presented as happening on an everyday basis. Objectivity was something that was greatly desired, and what Graves wrote in this text questioned his objectivity, especially because of the way that he was known to have struggled with his mental health following the war. As such, critics argued that what was produced in this text was not the "truth," but rather a highly subjective account of the war that reflected far more the author's own fragile mental health rather than any factual observation. Consider the following example:

Cuinchy bred rats. They came up from the canal, fed on the plentiful corpses, and multiplied exceedingly. While I stayed here with the Welsh, a new officer joined the company... When he turned in that night, he heard a scuffling, shone his torch on the bed, and found two rats on his blanket tussling for the possession of a severed hand.

This is just one area in which critics have questioned the veracity of such claims, arguing that this potentially exaggerated account may reflect much more the terror and mental instability of the author than accurately reporting real stories that happened on the battlefield. However, since its publication, it is much more accepted that any first person account of any historical period is going to be subjective to a certain extent, and the text has come to be valued for its own merits rather than its supposed veracity or otherwise.

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