Collective And Generational Memories Essay

1795 words - 8 pages

The generation of 1914, often refers to those who came of age during WWI, and were robbed of their youth. While this term is a useful expression of the collective experience of universal sacrifice and suffering during the war, the term “generation” fails to recognize the unique experiences of the different genders, races, and classes. Women, Soldiers, both officers and enlisted, and Colonial forces, like Senegalese soldiers, experienced and remember the war differently. Therefore, using a broad and generalizing term like “ the generation of 1914,” discounts individual and minority group experiences, which does obscures how the war is collectively remembered.
Although there were many differing individual and group experiences during and after the war, “The generation of 1914,” maybe used to collectively regard suffering and sacrifice that all participants of this “generation” endured. Both Vera Brittain, in Testament of Youth, and Robert Graves, in Good-bye to All That, write about suffering, sacrifice, and the betrayal of their generation. Brittain writes extensively about her generation that had lost so much and endured so many physical hardships and mental anguish. Parents sacrificed sons, wives sacrificed husbands, soldiers sacrificed their lives, and the entire population of Europe had to endure under a constant atmosphere of death, loss, and other hardships, like food shortages, and military occupations. This was an important element in her definition of her generation. She writes that if her fiancé had been of the post-war generation she could not have married him, because “a gulf wider than any decade divides those who experienced the War as adults” and those “who grew up immediately afterwards” (617-618).
Another common theme that bound the generation of 1914 together was that the effects of the war lasted well beyond the end of the war and lingering feeling of betrayal. As the British population and government was trying to move forward it seemed to Brittain that her “four years in the Army seem quite forgotten by everyone except myself. Additionally, she “understood that the results of the war would last longer than [themselves]” (645). Graves too writes about the lingering effects of the war by those who experienced it. Although, he does not go into great detail about the long term effects in his post war life, he does write that, “It has taken some ten years for my blood to recover” (172). He also discusses the linger mental conditions that many of his peers suffered, such as neurasthenic conditions (171-172). Both Brittain and Graves question the purpose of the war. Graves writes that the wars “continuance seemed merely a sacrifice of the idealistic younger generation to the stupidity and self-protective alarm of the elder” (245). Brittain also echoes this sentiment of betrayal by the older generation. The war was fought and men were sacrificed because “Great Powers and little nations, always at the mercy of the...

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