What is the theme and style of Pirandello in War?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Like much with Pirandello, there is complexity and intricacy in a supposedly simple war story.  This only heightens the nuances of the First World War.  The style of the work is conversational, enhanced by the closed in setting of the train.  Each of the passengers has a particular slant on the notion of their children serving in the war effort.  This element helps to develop the divergent public reaction to Italians in the war.  Italy's participation in the war was not as strongly unified or as clearly articulated or sold as it as in America.  Many Italians,  separated from the fighting, had difficulty understanding the rationale in their participation in a war where over a million Italians would die and a nearly a million more would be injured.  The ambivalence of Italy's motivation in the war is reflected in the dialogue, which is very direct, centered on loss of children in the war, and little in way of national pride or the element of nationalism that sparked the conflict in general.  The feel of the discussion is that the death of the passenger's children is something of which they are not in control, and can only rationalize the death of children as something which might not hurt as much.  The only stirring words is spoken by the old man, whose pride and supposed solution is undercut with his realization that his son is dead.  Perhaps, this is the theme of the work.  The lack of verifiable conclusions, of answers, and the dearth of guidance that sent Italy into war is resonated with all the passengers, individuals who seem to be flailing at potential answers. The only absolute is a terrifying one: The passengers' sons will die and there is nothing which can be done to alleviate this pain.  The rationalizations offered are feeble attempts to make sense of something that is, in its own right, beyond sensible.  In this small dialogue, the abusurdity and horrors of war are simultaneously revealed and experienced.

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