Give two reasons why the lieutenant's comrades "look at him with large eyes thoughtfully" but will not touch him in "An Episode of War."

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

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In "An Episode of War," the lieutenant's comrades do not touch him because of the literal and symbolic nature of his injury.  

The literal injury that the lieutenant suffers is gruesome.  It makes him "helpless."  His comrades see its brutal nature and are taken aback.  The blood rushing through the open wound and absorbed by his shirt causes them to retreat.  Crane uses the literal nature of the injury to bring out the banal horror of war.  He displays how soldiers, exposed to the worst in human mortality every day, are still stunned when they see an injury of this magnitude in such close proximity.  They look with "large eyes" because of the surprise and shock in seeing the brutality of war in close range.

Crane also suggests that there is a symbolic reason the comrades don't touch the lieutenant.  In describing how a "wound gives strange dignity" to the soldier who experiences it, Crane argues that healthy soldiers "shy from this new and terrible majesty."  This would be another reason why the soldiers stare at the lieutenant, but do not touch him.  Crane asserts that "other men" view themselves as "little" when in the company of one who has been injured during war.  This sense of awed distance is another reason why the men don't touch the lieutenant, but rather look at him with "large eyes." 


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