Luigi Pirandello: "War"
World War I was known as "The Great War;" in which countries all around the globe participated in an extensive stalemate that lasted longer than any leader or countryman had ever anticipated. WWI had initially been thought to last through the Christmas of 1914; however, the world war persisted for 1500 days. During this time, nine million people lost their lives in battle and millions of families' lives, back at home, had changed forever.
Luigi Pirandello was no stranger to the harsh realities introduced by World War I. Pirandello's son was sent to battle and, unlike most other soldiers, fortunately survived having only been wounded. The short story "War" takes place during 1919; the year the official Armistice was called over WWI. "War" brings to light the internal struggles provoked by the loss of a child to one's country.
Readers are introduced to the seven characters in this short story during a train ride to bid their loved ones farewell, to fight on the front. The setting is stuffy, smoky, and cramped, as the passengers have been on this journey for three long months. This second-class carriage sets the tone for the heartache and sacrifice that envelops each passenger. Pirandello describes these characters in great detail to illustrate to the reader their intensity and discontent. Although these passengers' stories differ, they each share a common thread of emotion that sparks a debate causing unrealized personal tragedy to bubble from below the surface.
An immense amount of detail is privileged to the woman overcome with emotion and grief under her bulky exterior. She does not speak until the very end of the story, nor show her face in the least. Her opposing character, the watery gray-eyed monster of a man, also receives much detail from Pirandello. These characters are balanced by the woman's tiny, small and bright-eyed husband who shares his distressing story with the other five passengers.
Pirandello portrays a woman under the utmost of suffering who believes that no other person could possibly share her feelings of sadness and despair. The author describes this woman as hiding behind the collar of her coat and unspeaking. She shields herself, overcome with grief, from the other passengers and takes it upon herself to carry the torch of the tortured mother of a WWI soldier. However, she learns that these other passengers share in her heartache and may too, possibly even more than she, feel the pain of losing their child to the war. After her husband tried to rationalize her emotional state, she felt she deserved compassion and sympathy from the other passengers; however, she received the opposite. The other passengers did not share in her pessimism about the possibility of losing her one child, for they believed their grief to be greater than hers.
With multiple family members away at war, the other passengers began their case against her. Having believed she would suffer the most if she were to lose her only child, the wife quickly learned the power of paternal love. The other passengers explained that "paternal love is not like bread that can be broken into pieces and split amongst the children in equal shares [...] a father gives all his love to each one of his children without discrimination, whether it be one or ten" (Pirandello 539). Love is a main underlying theme throughout this story. Each of the passengers feels differing degrees of pain for the love that they lost or may lose to this great war. The power of that love has little to do with how it is dispensed; but has everything to do with the challenges of navigating through the changes of that love. As explained in the story, each situation is different, yet the same. Without a known outcome, each passenger bids farewell to one or many of their children and feels equal pain for each.
Without considering that the pain of other parents in comparison to her own, the wife wallows in despair for she believes she...
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