Here’s to You, World War II…

The most recent works of literature we have encountered in this course [Maus, Night, and Slaughter-house-five] have all helped us to further appreciate the stomach-turning acts of inhumanity that World War II was made of.  Art Spiegelman, Elie Weisel, and Kurt Vonnegut have left us with pleasant images forever burned in our minds to help carry on the legacy of such an abomination of mankind: Children burning alive in ditches. Families busted apart… “lucky” survivors… starvation.  Plunger-shaped extraterrestrials with an ability to see the purpose of life that would put any human being to shame, yet still lacking the ability to resist galaxy-deleting button pushing…

These three books did exactly what [I think] they were intended to do: Make no sense whatsoever out of something that was never intended to be made sense of.  After reading Maus, I was unable to free myself of the image of Vladek’s son Richiev and the other small children being poisoned to death as an alternative to being sent to die in the gas chambers (Spiegelman. 109).  At my convenience, it just so happened that I read this book the same week that I read the Death Investigation chapter of my Criminal Investigation textbook [I am a Criminal Justice major. Yay me.].  The cheerful excerpt from this chapter concerning suicide death by poisons follows, and I quote:

         “Usually, death does not occur rapidly, and victims may employ other methods of suicide to stop the excruciating pain.” (Swanson, Chamelin, Territo, and Taylor. 298).

That week was not one of sweet dreams, needless to say.  But, hey–this course is “Literary Responses to War and Peace.” In all fairness, I wasn’t expecting a fairytale.  I imagine that the only warm-fuzzy evoking page out of any of the assigned reading materials in this course is the sarcastic artwork on page 156 of Vonnegut’s novel: A tombstone carved to display the happy image of a baby angel and the words, “Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.”

Now that I’ve brought up the topic of mind-debilitating imagery… that won’t go away… a recent post from one of my favorite milbloggers–Alex Horton–speaks of his inability to shake the image of a death of one of his fellow soldiers that happened two years ago.  His accounts are, perhaps, a little more inspiring… yet equally heavy hearted:

       “What happened next replays in my mind every single day. In an instant, a loving father and a good soldier lay dead on the ground, and the squad he so readily guided was a tangled mass of limbs in the back of the vehicle, turned sideways from the force of the blast… Yet the blast didn’t just end his life. For each of us that knew him, it was the defining moment of our lives when we became not only familar with death, but intimate with it.” (“A Man at Sunset.” Paragraph 5. Visited site: 21 March, 2009).

War seems to have an amazing ability to enter into the parts of our minds that we sometimes wish we could turn off.  There’s no need to open your eyes to see what it’s done to the way we view the world after the fact: Those images are conveniently carved everywhere in our minds that we don’t want them to be, for our lack of enjoyment later.

Works Cited

Horton, Alex. “A Man at Sunset.” 12 March, 2009. Army of Dude. Visited 21    March, 2009. >

Spiegelman, Art. Maus. New York: Pantheon Books, 1973. (pp. 109)

Swanson, Chamelin, Territo, and Taylor. Criminal Investigation. 10th Ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2009.                 (pp. 298)

Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughter-House-Five. New York: Delta Publishing, 1969. (pp. 156)


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