Note three examples of the lieutenant's distance from the uninjured people around him. What do these examples suggest about the way he is seen by others in "An Episode of War."
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The lieutenant's wound serves to separate him from the other uninjured men around him, and it becomes a reminder of just how quickly a sharpshooter's bullet can change the life of a man--how fate does not distinguish between officers and enlisted men--and how both the lieutenant and the other soldiers seek to distance themselves from one another. It is as if the lieutentant has acquired a disease that may be passed on to others by close contact. After his men congregate around him to commiserate about the wound, he begins a solitary walk to the rear to seek medical attention.
And the men in silence stared at the wood, then at the departing lieutenant--then at the wood, then at the lieutenant.
Encountering a general and his staff busy with their battle responsibilities, the men keep "their respectful interval" between the wounded man, a soldier no longer capable of doing his duty. Likewise, an artillery battery passes him by, and only a group of stragglers--not wounded, but like the lieutenant, now out of the fight--stop to share news with their fellow noncombatant. When another officer assists in binding the wound,
The lieutenant hung his head, feeling, in this presence, that he did not know how to be correctly wounded.
Arriving at the school building that serves as a hospital, the lieutenant holds back from entering the makeshift operating room, filled with wounded soldiers like himself but administered by uninjured doctors, one of whom is quick to lie about the severity of the wound. At this point the lieutenant recognizes his fate--that he will lose his arm at the hands of a doctor whose
... voice contained the same scorn as if he were saying, "You will have to go to jail...,"
and who recognizes that his patient's usefulness to the army has come to an end.
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