Vera Brittain Mary M. Colum - Essay

Mary M. Colum

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The life that was lived in childhood and adolescence by that generation of boys and girls who grew into young manhood and womanhood just before the outbreak of the War is deader than the age of Queen Anne, yet it is all less than a quarter of a century ago, and the people who belonged to it are still young or, anyway, young-middle-aged. But it was a doomed generation, and few of those who survived the War and the revolutions consequent on the War were ever really at home in the world afterwards. (p. 340)

["Testament of Youth"] is a great help toward understanding that generation and toward understanding, not only why the young were so thoroughly sacrificed in a democratic age, but why they permitted themselves to be so sacrificed. "Testament of Youth" is the account of the life of a typical girl of that doomed generation, belonging to the classes that used to be called the middle in the islands that used to be called the British. (pp. 340-41)

Though the great value of Vera Brittain's book lies in the fact that the life she records was typical, she herself has not the detachment from that life, nor a sufficient insight into history, nor sufficient power properly to assess what was beyond doubt one of the most foolish ages in history. Probably nobody living has these qualifications, nor will have until that generation which fought the War and which is now making opinion and coming into the control of affairs is either...

(The entire section is 490 words.)