The Conscript Reaction Paper
Gebreyesus Hailu’s The Conscript is a short novel about the struggles of soldiers conscripted to fight in Libya under the Italians. The main character of the story is Tuquabo Medhaniye Alem, a kind-hearted and enthusiastic young man. Upon joining the war, Tuquabo left behind his fairly old parents, a nice home and even a herd of cattle. This signified great wealth back then, so Tuquabo family was a relatively stable family in terms of money. As he grew up, Tuquabo heard many songs that displayed fighting in the Libya war as an exciting and honorable experience. He wanted to go to war and come back a “hero.” Hailu stated “his ambition may have also been influenced by those Habesha chiefs who said they hated to sit idle after a brief break from going to war.” But unfortunately, all these songs and rumors about the war were just that, rumors. In reality, the Libya war was a horrible experience for all the conscripts and their families. Hailu is able to portray the war as it truly was; a way that makes the reader sympathetic for Tuquabo and his family, while at the same time giving important details about the war. Throughout Hailu’s novel, the Italians constantly looked down on the conscripts. The Italians believed themselves to be superior to the conscripts and treated them “like dogs.” Even from the very beginning, the conscripts were poorly treated. The Italians came and forced the conscripts away from their families before a proper goodbye could be said. This action was very inhumane and showed how little the Italians cared about the emotions of the conscripts. In addition conscripts were forced to walk through the burning sand while the Italians rode on mules and camels. They had no shoes and were prone to wounds on their feet. At night they slept in the open exposed to the roaring wind, as the Italians were comfortable in their tents. I was confused when reading over these events because I would expect the Italians to treat the...
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