Vera Brittain Fred J. Ringel - Essay

Fred J. Ringel

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

During the lull after a literary deluge of experiences of the last war and rising warnings against the coming chemical extinction of mankind, books [of the sort of Testament of Youth] assume a greater significance. They are written by that "lost generation," invisibly marked with the shadow of death and destruction. The whole tragedy of a hoary youth without the exciting self-assurance of a "barbarian heroism," the bitterness of its sorrow and frustration, carry far more striking agitation against a new massacre than do the glowing tales of trench moles.

Vera Brittain's story is the average story of a million individuals during the war: the conventional middle-class home in rural England, a meager adolescence, a short period at Oxford, and then the beginning of the war. Her fiance is drafted and killed, her brother and their friends follow soon after, and Miss Brittain enlists as a nurse. Her hospital experiences in London, Malta, and France take up the greater part of the book.

For fifteen years Vera Brittain, poet and author of several novels, intended to write the story of her generation, fully exposing all the horrors which culminated in a sullen determination "never to forget." But time and distance had to be gained for an objectivity which released repressions and enabled her to relate her modest experiences to the great catastrophe. We can understand therefore the expansion of this human document into a...

(The entire section is 531 words.)