Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War

by Paul Fussell
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What are some of the key points Fussell makes in his chapter "Drinking Far Too Much, Copulating Too Little" from Wartime?

Some of the key points Fussell makes in his chapter “Drinking far too much, Copulating Too Little” from Wartime are that drinking was a way of dealing with the stress of combat and that liquor made it easier for men to face death. Soldiers also felt less inhibited about killing once they had a drink or two inside them.

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As Fussell makes clear in the “Drinking Too Much, Copulating Too Little” chapter of Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, drinking was a major issue for many Allied soldiers. He looks at the reasons behind his phenomenon and makes a number of important conclusions based on the available evidence.

Fussell notes that drinking was a way for fighting men to deal with the stress of combat. Most soldiers in World War II has no prior experience of armed combat, and so many found that they needed a little Dutch courage to help steel themselves before a battle. Even the bravest soldier can experience fear before battle, and so it’s only natural that soldiers will try just about anything to minimize that fear. The copious consumption of alcohol is one relatively easy way of doing that.

Fussell also concludes, in an expansion of the point made above, that men often found it easier to kill or to face their own deaths, if they had some liquor inside them. For soldiers without prior military experience, like most people, the very thought of killing someone or of being killed by them is pretty hard to take. However, alcohol tends to make one fearless, to loosen one’s inhibitions, thereby making it easier—or rather less difficult—to face the prospect of one’s death or of taking someone else’s life.

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