Consequences of Misunderstanding Shellshock

Topics: Suffering, Mrs Dalloway, World War I Pages: 3 (835 words) Published: December 8, 2005
War is hell. There is no other human event in which there is bloodshed even comparable to that of war. Murder, mass graves, raping, razing, looting and torture are all gears in the war machine. Unfortunately, soldiers are the engine. Soldiers who have morals, families and consciences. A soldier is trained to take orders, to obey without thought. The soldiers mind and soul, on the other hand, are not so well equipped to deal with the horrors of military combat. Even after the soldier has fired his last bullet, put away his gun and returned home, he may still be at war in his head. Shell shock is the name of the disease which is known to have stricken a plethora of WWI veterans. In Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, the character Septimus suffers from shell shock and it leads to his eventual suicide, as the treatments of the time were clearly inadequate. Woolf's characters accurately demonstrate the institution's insufficient treatment of shell shock victims in the early 1900's.

It has been estimated that, upon returning from WWI, one in seven soldiers suffered from shell shock. 80,000 young men suffered from a range of symptoms, everything from tics to neuroses to full blown schizophrenia. Certain soldiers who had stabbed their adversaries in say, the leg, would get leg cramps. Others would relive the scenes of their murders whenever they would close their eyes. Sometimes a feeling of numbness would accompany returning home from the war. Veterans would seem distant from friends, family and they sometimes came to resent the very society they had killed to protect. Others would turn the resentment inwards, and feel intense guilt for having survived the war, while so many others suffered and died. (1)

The symptoms of shell shock are physically subtle, but immensely powerful mentally. This led to doctors misdiagnosing shell shock when it first became a common ailment. Physical damage to nerves, cowardice and careless recruiting procedures were all cited as...
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