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World War I caused feelings of disillusionment. What are three situations that reflect...

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jharmon2 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 23, 2013 at 1:14 AM via web

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World War I caused feelings of disillusionment. What are three situations that reflect this disillusionment?

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

Posted July 23, 2013 at 2:35 AM (Answer #1)

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The disillusionment that was a part of the landscape and legacy of World War I is seen in many of the situations that Hemingway features.  Consider the Italian major as one such example.  A strict adherent to his military code of honor, the Italian major recognizes that he will not be able to fully regain what he had before the war. In both the use of his hand and the presence of his wife who dies unexpectedly, the Italian major embodies the code or condition of soldiers in World War I who were taught to fight for nationalism, honor, and duty only to realize that the pain and hollowness of their experience could not be answered by any of these "ideals."  The hurt and agony of consciousness in the modern world is seen in the Italian major's disillusion, something that millions of soldiers and civilians following World War I experienced.

The major's wife does not enter the narrative until the very end.  Yet, she can be seen as a situation that parallels the condition of World War I and the disillusionment intrinsic to it.  An extremely healthy woman, her sudden death forces the realization upon the Major that he cannot control the most important element of being in the world.  The desire to appropriate the world in accordance to his subjectivity fails in the face of loss and an adversary in death that is unbeatable.  This represents much of World War I in terms of the young soldiers, extremely healthy and able, who willingly and zealously marched out to battle only to either die or suffer horrible disfigurement both emotionally and physically as a result of the war. In the death of the Major's wife, the sudden and unexpected loss of life parallels the experience of disillusionment that is an integral part of the World War I narrative.

Finally, the narrator's condition of being an outsider and relegated to the periphery of human interaction is significant in the World War I narrative.  The American feels himself to be fundamentally different than the other soldiers around him.  He recognizes that the the connection between he and the Italian major will be lost when news of the Major's wife's death hits him.  This sense of isolation and fragmentation is a part of the psyche that soldiers after World War I experienced when they returned home.  Win or lose, they were forever altered by what they saw and experienced.  This made being able to reconnect with those around them fundamentally impossible. This sense of disillusionment was a part of the soldier's experience in the wake of World War I.

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