The Harsh Realities Of War Through Self Medication

1198 WordsApr 2, 20175 Pages
Hemingway debunks the idyllic magnificence of war through his depiction of both Frederic and Rinaldi distancing themselves from the harsh realities of war through self-medication. When Frederic describes his experience of the war, he says, ""The priest was good but dull. The officers were not good but dull. The King was good but dull. The wine was bad but not dull. It took the enamel off your teeth and left it on the roof of your mouth" (AFTA 33). Underlying this proclamation is a bleak tone, revealing that Frederic is truly not engaged in this war. Rather, he seems to suffer through it with the help of the "wine," the alcohol present throughout the book. All the people are "dull," and the wine, though it is "bad," is the only thing that…show more content…
Frederic’s “drinking” is his way of being able to live through this “revelation,” desensitizing himself to this newfound, cruel awareness. War causes soldiers to be disillusioned with life and necessitates a numbing against all feeling and thought in order to move forward; by starkly depicting this concept, Hemingway discredits the idyllic perspective. Rinaldi demonstrates another instance of self-medication allowing a soldier to live through the grim reality of war. When Frederic returns to the front, he finds Rinaldi immensely deteriorated. During their conversation, Rinaldi exclaims, ""This war is terrible... come on. We 'll both get drunk and be cheerful... Then we 'll feel fine" (AFTA 147). Rinaldi describes the "war" as "terrible" and claims that what makes him "feel fine" and enables him to function is being "drunk." Rinaldi 's words indicate both the soldiers ' understanding of the harsh realities of the war and the need for them to self-medicate themselves with alcohol in order to desensitize themselves to the reality of war and to function. According to Diane Price Herndl, "Drinking to excess, drinking to forget, drinking enough to be sick--these are repeated refrains... ultimately, as we shall see, drinking as self-medication assists in silence" (Herndl 11). The harsh realities of war make soldiers feel helpless, inconsequential, and out of control in this dark, brutal environment, but the alcohol gives them some semblance of comfort and
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