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“A Darkling Plain” a Book by Kristen Monroe Essay



War periods present a trying time for humankind. War is known to highlight the worst qualities of humankind. During wars, people turn against each other as their moral integrity is compromised. In his book “A Darkling Plain”, Dr. Kristen Monroe investigates how conflict affects humanity. Monroe is a philosophy and political science professor at the University of California at Irvine. Monroe’s book uses stories from people who lived through wars and later witnessed flourishing happiness. These narratives form the basis of the book “A Darkling Plain” and they include interviews with people who survived international and civil conflicts. The interviewed people include soldiers, victims of dictatorial regimes, and refugees. According to the author’s narrative, it is hard for anyone to survive the war with his/her personality intact. Monroe presents the argument that war has profound effects on psychological processes. Moreover, the book is subdivided into six psychological dimensions for easier analysis. This paper explains how Monroe uses narrative analysis to evaluate the issues of humanity and war.

“A Darkling Plain” is made up of a series of analyses that span over different periods and continents. These narratives reflect peoples’ attempts at making sense of their reality. Normally, narratives are used to present shared beliefs, similar identities, and common origins. In Monroe’s case, narratives are used to present similar experiences. Most of the interviewed persons have either survived a war or experienced the effects of the war firsthand. For instance, some of the narratives cover wars that happened in the early 1920s while the others cover conflicts that happened in this century. However, all these narratives reveal similarities in inexperience. For example, the story of Frank the South Pacific soldier details war-related experiences in the early 1920s. Nevertheless, Frank’s experiences bear striking similarities with those of displaced African refugees. Therefore, the author is able to create a network of ideas that help to highlight how war affects humanity.

Monroe’s style of narrative analysis is quite wholesome as compared to other narrative styles. Most narratives tend to omit the details that are considered to be of less importance. However, Monroe’s narratives are inclusive of all the details that the narrators consider important to them. In some instances, the narratives used in “A Darkling Plain” tend to contain ‘irrelevant’ information. Nevertheless, the wholesome nature of Monroe’s narrative style enriches the quality of her work and adds authenticity to the narrators’ experiences. The narrators are allowed to offer all details of their life during the war period. Significantly, the core aspects of these narrations converge to show how humanity reacts to war experiences.

The author’s conclusions about the war are quite accurate. The narratives used in the book only give the version of the story that the narrator wants to be known. Some narrators do not want their readers/listeners to know how bad the war was. For example, Frank the Soldier jokes about the experiences of his life during the war in a bid to cover up the horrible experiences of the war. On the other hand, other narrators do their best to convey the horrors of the war to their audiences. In Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s narrative, he highlights the bloodiest war experiences such as the beheading of the man who would not part with his Bible (Monroe 46). Another situation where the narrative analysis would be necessary is when trying to find reconciliation.

Personal Experience

According to Monroe, people use several tactics to ensure that they maintain their humanity during the war. The author claims most survivors view humanity as a threefold concept that covers all human beings, the quality of humanity, and the ability to be humane by treating others with care and concern. Therefore, Monroe argues that maintaining humanity “includes the ability to retain the decency that is part of our human condition, to show respect and concern for others, and to demonstrate kindness and benevolence in our treatment of our fellow human beings, even during the war” (Monroe 25). However, the author notes that narrators do not necessarily focus on the aspect of ‘retaining humanity’ in their narrations. It is noted that some people retain their humanity by sharing and memorizing wartime stories. Other people retain their humanity by repressing and trying to forget the experiences of the war. Most of the people who try to forget their war experiences reckon that it is almost impossible to remain human while one is still carrying around the experiences of the war. One of the narrators in Monroe’s book claims that the fact that she was able to love even when she was held up in a concentration camp helped her maintain her humanity. Maintaining humanity could also be motivated by peoples’ service to others. For instance, Monroe notes that some victims struggled to survive for the sake of their families.

Monroe’s claims about humanity, survival, and coping mechanisms can be tested and applied using traumatic personal experiences. One of my most traumatic events happened a few months ago when I lost my five-year-old nephew in a freak accident. He had just come from his school’s closing day event. Soon after, I called his mother to make arrangements for how he would stay with me in the next few days. He was in high spirits and he was looking forward to enjoying his December holidays. However, an hour after we had talked someone called me to inform me that my nephew had had an accident; he had fallen from the top of a building and died. There were no witnesses to the accident and with time, suspicions of foul play began surfacing. The period following my nephew’s passing was tough. I had big plans for him and he was a promising kid. It has been a few months since the incident and I have managed to deal with this event and somehow retain my humanity.

The first thing I did after the loss was to surround myself with other family members who were going through similar trauma. My cousin had just lost her only child and I knew I had to remain sober for her sake. Like the victims in Monroe’s narration, I struggled to maintain composure for my family’s sake. In addition, I compiled photos of my nephew and wrote poems about the times we spent with my nephew. These compilations are quite similar to Monroe’s shared narratives.

My strategy worked because there were few other people who were going through a similar experience. I also shared my poems with other family members through social networking websites. Their comments helped me cope with my loss and at the same time helped them cope with theirs. Avoiding repressing the experience also helped me to cope with my loss.

Works Cited

Monroe, Kristen. A Darkling Plain, California, CA: Cambridge University, 2014. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2021, February 22). "A Darkling Plain" a Book by Kristen Monroe. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-darkling-plain-a-book-by-kristen-monroe/

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""A Darkling Plain" a Book by Kristen Monroe." IvyPanda, 22 Feb. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/a-darkling-plain-a-book-by-kristen-monroe/.

1. IvyPanda. ""A Darkling Plain" a Book by Kristen Monroe." February 22, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-darkling-plain-a-book-by-kristen-monroe/.


IvyPanda. ""A Darkling Plain" a Book by Kristen Monroe." February 22, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-darkling-plain-a-book-by-kristen-monroe/.


IvyPanda. 2021. ""A Darkling Plain" a Book by Kristen Monroe." February 22, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-darkling-plain-a-book-by-kristen-monroe/.


IvyPanda. (2021) '"A Darkling Plain" a Book by Kristen Monroe'. 22 February.

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