Testament of Youth

by Vera Brittain

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Personal Loss and the Lost Generation

Brittain experienced great loss and tragedy throughout the early years of her life—more than many experience their entire lives—due to the start of World War I. Brittain's brother, Edward, goes off to the war and never returns, having been killed in Italy in 1918. Brittain’s betrothed (and a good friend of Edward's), Roland Leighton, is also killed during the war. The memoir discusses many of the deaths of people close to Vera as a result of World War I and examines how these deaths impact her personal beliefs and convictions, particularly in becoming a pacifist.

Forced Maturity as a Result of Tragedy

Brittain begins her memoirs as a girl, but she grows quickly and matures into a woman because of her experiences. She attends university, watches her loved ones pass away, and serves as a wartime nurse. These experiences age her quickly, and she has to grow and mature to properly process the events she sees. Surrounded by death (and additionally growing in her understanding of the world through college and travel), she matures greatly over the timeline and acknowledges as much.

Acceptance of Loss and the Importance of Moving On

Brittain uses her composition of the memoir as a coping and processing method, learning to come to terms with the death in the world, particularly the personal deaths that affect her. Additionally, she has to learn to accept the world as it is. Her life before college and the war is hopeful and optimistic, but she becomes jaded after it all and has to accept the frightening place the world actually is in the process. Additionally, in finding her eventual husband, she slowly accepts the death of her former lover. The story ends much more hopefully than it began, with Brittain acquiescing to a new life.

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