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“Editha”, “Fires on the Plain”, “Old Man’s War” Essay

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Updated: Aug 22nd, 2020

As is well known from the history of humanity, military conflicts and wars are common phenomena that have taken place throughout global development. Nations become involved in wartime struggles due to a large number of geopolitical reasons. While some countries may take a defensive stand, others deliberately become engaged in military actions.

The question arises: What mechanisms push individuals to fight in any war against other simple people like themselves? The often promoted idea of nationalism that increases patriotic sentiments during a time of conflict may play a substantial role in the development of wrong ideas regarding war and its purposes, and provoke division of the global community.

Many artists and writers have used their skills to depict the horrors of war and demonstrate how it exploits people. For example, in Fires on the Plain, Shōhei Ōoka tells the story of a soldier, Tamura, who is ordered to leave the army because he is ill and is regarded as an unnecessary burden.

The novel perfectly depicts the devastation that war causes—the continual struggle for life, hunger, enmity, and fear a person encounters every day during the war. Tamura and other soldiers, as well as the citizens of the Philippine island where the plot unfolds, are deprived of the most ordinary things. Even salt is regarded by them as a treasure: “They all crammed their hands into my haversack, pulled out fistfuls of salt and stuffed it in their mouths. As they chewed they mumbled their appreciation. I noticed that the eyes of the superior-private were filmed with tears” (Ōoka 126).

Death and hardships continuously follow Tamura during his wandering across the lands that he had come to liberate as a member of the Imperial Japanese Army. Yet even as a reader reaches the final pages in the novel, he/she is not given a certain answer for why Tamura and others needed to suffer. However, an obvious answer is implicit in the novel—Tamura is deceived, and the whole nation is deluded.

A good example of exalting national and political values over individual well-being is given in “Editha” by William Dean Howells. Editha is a young lady who persuades her fiancée, George, to enroll in the army. At the same time, George does not want to be involved in the war, but ultimately he is persuaded and is killed before he can participate in his first battle. The story demonstrates how the wrong ideals of loved ones may serve as emotional and psychological pressures on innocent and peaceful people. “Editha” shows the cunning ways in which a society may influence minds and push toward profound errors.

The urge to protect their families and homes may serve as one of the strongest motivations for individuals who decide to become soldiers. John Perry, the main character of the Old Man’s War is told that the military mission of the war is the protection of children in particular, and the Earth as a whole and that loyalty to home is the main quality of a soldier. However, as John kills more and more of his enemies, he understands that he is thereby losing his human identity and does not feel as human anymore (Scalzi par. 11). Participation in war becomes the only way to comprehend the true nature of this phenomenon and reveal all the mindless violence it entails.

The ugliness of war often hides behind beautiful ideas—freedom, humanity, and love for relatives and friends. But the truth is that it can bring only constraints, cruelty, and loss. “Is it glorious to break the peace of the world?” (Howells 1). The fact is that it is not. War is demoralization, and essential human values should never be used to stimulate people to support it.

Works Cited

Howells, William Dean. “Editha.” Harper’s Monthly. 1905. Web.

Ōoka, Shōhei. Fires on the Plain. 2001. New York, NY: Tuttle Publishing. Web.

Scalzi, John. Old Man’s War. 2014. New York, NY: Macmillan. Web.

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"Editha", "Fires on the Plain", "Old Man's War." IvyPanda, 22 Aug. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/editha-fires-on-the-plain-old-mans-war/.

1. IvyPanda. "Editha", "Fires on the Plain", "Old Man's War." August 22, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/editha-fires-on-the-plain-old-mans-war/.


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IvyPanda. (2020) '"Editha", "Fires on the Plain", "Old Man's War"'. 22 August.

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