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"You remember, overseas, I was in command of a company? . . . Well, I lost them. . ....

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udi1995 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted April 24, 2013 at 3:44 PM via web

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"You remember, overseas, I was in command of a company? . . . Well, I lost them. . . Just about all. . . . It takes a little time to toss that off. Because they weren't just men. For instance, one time it'd been raining several days and this kid came to me, and gave me his last pair of dry socks. Put them in my pocket. That's only a little thing . . . but . . . that's the kind of guys I had. They didn't die; they killed themselves for each other. I mean that exactly; a little more selfish and they'd've been here today. And I got an idea - watching them go down. Everything was being destroyed, see, but it seemed to me that one new thing was made. A kind of . . . responsibility. Man for man. You understand me? - To show that, to bring that on to the earth again like some kind of a monument and everyone would feel it standing there, behind him, and it would make a difference to him. . . . And then I came home and it was incredible. I . . . there was no meaning in it here; the whole thing to them was a kind of a - bus accident. I went to work with Dad, and that rat-race again. I felt . . . what you said . . . ashamed somehow. Because nobody was changed at all. It seemed to make suckers out of a lot of guys. I felt wrong to be alive, to open the bank-book, to drive the new car, to see the new refrigerator. I mean you can take those things out of a war, but when you drive that car you've got to know that it came out of the love a man can have for a man, you've got to be a little better because of that. Otherwise what you have is really loot, and there's blood on it. I didn't want to take any of it. And I guess it included you."

In the quote above from Arthur Miller's play "All My Sons", what is Chris trying to say, and how might it be connected to the fact that he survived the war, but his brother is still missing ?

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted April 27, 2013 at 12:07 AM (Answer #1)

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What Chris is trying to convey is something that probably almost cannot be adequately put into words, the fierce loyalty that exists among those who have fought and died together, the true knowledge of the price that was paid for the freedoms we all enjoy, and specifically the prosperity the United States enjoyed after World War II.  We try to understand the price that was paid for our freedom, and we do what little we can to commemorate it on Memorial Day and Veteran's Day, and in parades, and during the national anthem at the baseball park, but there is not a single thing we can do to adequately repay those who fought and died, and we'll never really understand what was sacrified--probably part of the fierce loyalty that exists among troops relates to that very fact:  no one else understands, no one else will ever understand, because no one can understand except the one who eats, sleeps, and breathes it every single day for however long. 

The guilt Chris feels, commonly called "survivor's guilt" is exacerbated by the missing status of his brother, because even as he tries to put his life back together and move on to the next chapter, he is held back by his brother's absence, and his parents' resulting pain; adding to the painful situation is the realization that people at home had moved on as easily as if they had simply witnessed a "bus accident. . . .nobody was changed at all".  Although Chris is participating in everyday life, he does not relish it; he is painfully aware of the price that was paid for the comfort of home, the reliable job, the bank book, the new car; he will likely never take those things for granted again, even as he lives in a society of people who, but for a brief hiccup in time, will always take everything for granted. 

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