War is not only causes physical injuries, but emotional ones as well. Throughout history, soldiers returning from war have acquired emotional damage after enduring to the harsh conditions of combat. They suffer from illnesses such as PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress disorder, a disorder in which traumatizing experiences from the past still affect an individual to which they are unlike themselves anymore. Along with PTSD they suffer from moral injury, the pain that results from damage to a person’s moral foundation.
In All Quiet on The Western Front By Erich Maria Remarque and Thomas Hardy’s’ “The Man He Killed” characters struggles with the emotional effects of war. Despite the internal struggle faced by Paul and the speaker from the poem, both learn to alter their moral nature and reactions to war. Paul and the speaker face a similar internal struggle after killing an enemy in combat. After ending Gerard Duval’s life in the trench, Paul feels guilty of taking another man’s life. He struggles to cope with his moral injury as he feels he did not need to kill the man.
Paul believes that Gerard Duval poses no threat to him as Gerald is already helpless and dying. Paul states that he “would give much if he would stay alive”, and “each word [he] translate pierces [him] like a shot in the chest” (Remarque 221 and 225). Paul wishes that he could have taken back what he had done and allow the man to die on his own. Paul faces the reality of war, as his own hands become a weapon. Similarly, the speaker in “The Man He Killed” struggles with internal conflict after killing an enemy in combat.
The speaker tries to reason with himself in hopes of justifying his actions. He momentarily forgets why he shot the man, but then states “I shot him dead because- / because he was my foe” (Hardy 9-10). The speaker pauses based on the repetition of “because” to indicate his confusion as to why he shot the man in the first place. The speaker continues on, not putting much thought towards the topic. Both Paul and the speaker battle a similar internal conflict, a conflict that every soldier has to deal with.
In a similar fashion, Paul and the narrator learn to suppress their emotions towards war and alter their moral nature. In All Quiet on The Western Front, Paul continues to struggle with the death of Gerald Duval. He struggles with facing the realities of war and the challenges that come along with it. Finally, he accepts that “War is war”, there is no way to describe the brutal struggles of war and tries to move on (Remarque 229). Paul accepts that killing is normal while at war as man can become a machine.
For example, natural instinct takes over and Paul kills Gereld without hesitation. In a similar way, the speaker from Thomas Hardy’s “The Man He killed” learns to suppress his feelings by not putting much thought towards his enemy’s death. He similarly states that there is no way to describe war when he says”yes; quaint and curious war is” (Hardy 17). The speaker understands that killing is an unfortunate reality of war and he must move on. Both Paul and the Speaker learn to cope with their emotions as it was a necessity for moving forward.
Despite a similar internal struggle, Paul and the speaker cope with their emotions in different ways. Although both characters do in fact suppress the guilt of killing an enemy, Paul still struggles with some regret. In “The Man He Killed”, the speaker acknowledges the fact that he is at war. The idea of killing another man becomes normal to him as he realizes that he enlisted for this purpose. The speaker states that “I shot at him as he at me”, if he had failed to shoot, he could have been the one dead, thus he had to fire back in order to survive.
On another note, Paul continues to struggle with his emotions. He cannot seem to cope with the thought of killing Gerald Duval. He finally notes that he “will get no farther that way”, he has to move on and not dwell on the past. The speaker accepts his role as a soldier; whereas, Paul struggles and dwells on the past. Each character has a unique way of dealing with their emotions, a necessary skill for soldiers at war. Analogously, Paul and the speaker learn to alter their moral nature and reactions to war despite dealing with an internal struggle.
They realize the they have to move on as killing a man is a harsh reality of war. Although Paul and the speaker do infact cope with their emotions, they do so in different manners. The speaker accepts his role as a soldier; whereas, Paul struggles and dwells on the past. Moral injury affects not only fictional characters but soldiers in real life. Both pieces of literature give extensive details on the harsh conditions of war and issues soldiers face. As seen in Erich Maria Remarque’s and Thomas Hardy’s works, being a soldier is not as glorious of a job as thought to be.