A Warrior's Moral Dilemma

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Society has long misunderstood the widespread emotional toll that the soldiers endure. The horrors and tribulations of war are unique in which only a veteran can understand thus leading to the soldier’s difficulties of rekindling with their friends and family upon return. This is seen in All Quiet on the Western Front, a fictional novel set in World War I written by Erich Maria Remarque, and in David Wood’s “A Warrior’s Moral Dilemma” which focuses on the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. These two pieces were written in dramatically different times, which allowed the advancement in information and communications technology, and despite that, the civilians and soldier still have trouble understanding one another. While in “A Warrior’s Moral…show more content…
In both works, the soldiers set aside their morals to overcome the horrors of war such as killing a man. This challenges their emotional endurance and has negative consequences on their mental disposition. Paul Bäumer, the protagonist in All Quiet on the Western Front, is put in a situation where he must suspend his ethics otherwise his supposed enemy, Gérard Duval, will murder him. This is the first time Paul has killed with his own hands, and “every gasp [of the enemy] lays [Paul’s] heart bare” (Remarque 221). He feels instant regret for his actions, and he “would give much if [Duval] would but stay alive” (Remarque 221). Paul experiences immediate guilt. Comparably, the main focus in “A Warrior’s Moral Dilemma” is Nick Rudolph, a 22-year-old Marine, who in a desperate gun battle outside Marjah, Afghanistan, found himself killing an Afghan boy. Nick “only [has] a split second to decide,” and out of instinct and necessity, “he squeezes the trigger and ends the boys’ life” (Wood). Similar to Paul, Nick is put in a situation where he must temporarily suspend his moral principle and act by instinct. Afterwards, “the boy’s death haunts [Nick]” (Wood). Both Paul and Nick suffer the moral confusion and guilt associated with killing. They were put in a situation which is…show more content…
After a brutal battle, Paul is sent home on leave. His father is proud of him and encourages Paul to talk about his experiences. Unaware of Paul’s emotions and feelings, he creates an uncomfortable environment for his son, and Paul finds it difficult to talk to his own father about the horrors of war. He finds he is not himself at home, and “there is a veil between” him and his family (Remarque 160). There is a disconnect because he feels as though he cannot communicate to his father and his family because they truly do not understand him. This is critical because not being able to communicate will slow the process of them joining society after serving. Wood summarizes this sensation perfectly when he states, “afraid or unwilling to be judged by civilians, many new veterans isolate themselves, never speaking of their wartime experiences. [They are] unable to explain” their emotions (Wood). This inhibits them to reconnect with civilians and their family, and ultimately it will prevent them from returning to their lives and society after deployment.
Although All Quiet on the Western Front and “A Warrior’s Moral Dilemma” focus on different time periods, they both exemplify how the horrors of war negatively affect the soldier’s mind
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