What are the fat man's feelings towards sending young people to war?

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The fat man at first appears to be an unapologetic jingoist and militarist. He ventures to suggest that young men don't really belong to their parents; they belong to the nation. That being the case, it makes no sense to cry when they fall in battle. Young men go to...

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The fat man at first appears to be an unapologetic jingoist and militarist. He ventures to suggest that young men don't really belong to their parents; they belong to the nation. That being the case, it makes no sense to cry when they fall in battle. Young men go to war out of love for their country—a higher love than the love they have for their parents. If they should die, then that's regrettable, but at least they died in a noble cause, and what's more, they will be spared the tedium and chronic disappointment of civilian life.

If the fat man's own son hadn't himself been killed at the front, we might accuse him of callousness borne of ignorance. But the man's own experience of loss informs his ostensibly shocking opinions. Stressing the supposedly glorious nature of war and young men's sacrifice is a way for him to deal with the emotional pain that must be eating him away inside. If he convinces himself that his son died for a noble cause, then that makes it a little easier to distance himself emotionally from his late son. As his son never really belonged to him, he figures, there's simply no point in getting upset over his death. In the end, however, we see the fat man overwhelmed by his grief, and he breaks down into tears.

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The fat man believes it's only right that young people who love their country be allowed to go to war. He argues that any patriotic young person should be permitted to answer the call of his country. After all, he reasons that someone must go to defend all their freedoms, and since they are too old to go, they might as well allow their sons to fight. His opinion is that "if one dies young and happy, without having the ugly sides of life, the boredom of it, the pettiness, the bitterness of disillusion...what more can we ask for him?"

On the surface, the fat man may seem courageous and, perhaps, even philosophical about his approach to young people going off to war. After all, he maintains that his own son died "satisfied at having ended his life in the best way he could have wished." He seems less inclined to dwell on his personal loss than the other passengers are. However, his resolute and indomitable facade soon crumbles in the face of a very decided question from the plump woman.

In the end, the woman's question reinforces for the fat man the finality of his son's death and the reality of his loss; then, in a touching demonstration of his own vulnerability, he is finally able to come to terms with his grief.

His face contracted, became horribly distorted, then he snatched in haste a handkerchief from his pocket and, to the amazement of everyone, broke into harrowing, heart-breaking, uncontrollable sobs.

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