The New Reality

8 Apr

A lot has been written about the trauma of the Great War in terms of what it did to the bodies of those who served and what consequently confronted the civilian population once those men began to return to civilian life.  It has been proposed that one of the reasons the war occasioned (if it did) a widespread culture of disillusion and disgust is that, for the first time, civilians were being confronted on a wide scale by men who had survived horribly disfiguring wounds rather than men who had just survived unscathed.  Advances in both chemical and surgical medicine in the years leading up to and during the war ensured that it was, at the time, more likely than ever that one could survive the sort of disfiguring injury that would in earlier wars have simply killed one outright — through infection, or trauma, or both.

And so, these are some of the men who came home — Americans, in this case:

Amputees

The prospects for such men were often dire.  It has become a commonplace that the veterans of the Great War on all sides were not well-taken-care-of upon their return, but things went very hard indeed for those who returned somewhat less than completely able-bodied.  For many such men, a new struggle was only just beginning.

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