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"What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Mon Apr 09, 2018 10:10 am
"What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?
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Response from Jack Shi

on Mon Apr 09, 2018 1:41 pm
In my perspective, he asks this question to express his confusion, or say potential dissatisfaction towards the situation of the war. He is confused that why the Austrian Empire, which has always been defeated before, doesn't fall apart quickly this time. His desire of a quick end of this war and his fear of death is also denoted through his monologue. In addition, personally, this question also sheds a light on the development of the plot of this book and provides a piece of subtle evidence of the alteration of his attitudes towards the war. Anyway, my idea is that he asks this question due to his emotions and human subconciousness.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Mon Apr 09, 2018 8:23 pm
In my opinion, this question was raised because he was doubting the reason for the war just like many of the other Italians. In this situation, the Austrian often lost in the battles but they didn't crack, he was hoping that if Austria fallen apart then the war would end very soon. He was afraid of death, since he had heard about British ambulance drivers being killed, he didn't want such thing to happen to him and he believed he wouldn't die. According to the history, actually, during WWI, Italy actually betrayed the Triple Alliance and joined the Triple Entente. Italy joined the Triple Alliance just because Germany's strong military power, it even have conflicts with Austria-Hungary on their territories. Perhaps the concern of "i" was a common doubt among the Italians, they were all wondering why Britain was their enemy and Austria was their ally. In conclusion, I think the reason he asked this question was because this was a common doubt among Italians.
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Reply

on Mon Apr 09, 2018 8:31 pm
From my perspective, the first reason why Henry claimed what the matter was with this war is that WWI was quite messy. Except the long-term causes like nationalism whose contributions to the break out of war gradually exposed, those short-term causes that made the war expended into a size of a world war, for example, Germany’s miscalculation about Russia’s mobilization, were more like coincidences and unexpected accidents. And the attendance of Italy was more tricky. Italy was like evaluating the interests then finally chose to join Germany. However, it did not provide any significant functions. Hence, I think the query shows Henry’s attitude towards the war is that he thought the war itself was ridiculous and messy. On the other hand, I think the reason why he gave this claim was that he thought the war restricted his freedom and limited a future of being colorful, exciting and free to a dull life of driving ambulances on the battle fields. After these days’ work, he gradually felt the boring and dark side of the war. The claims about his dreams of traveling to several beautiful places in Europe he made in the novel best proved. Instead of the dangerous and boring life in the war, he preferred the insouciant life in peace. He made this query to call for the peace and a supposed free and dreaming life. In conclusion, it was the ridiculous part of the war and Henry’s instinct of free and desire for peace that made him to say “What was the matter with the war”.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Mon Apr 09, 2018 8:36 pm
In my opinion, this question is more likely to be a kind of complaint to the war, and to the life of living in a world of war. Of course he wants the enemy to fall back and to be defeated just like they did in other wars, like JackShi said, but I think he wants more than that. So he expresses his personal feeling, and the feeling of many soldiers as well, that they want the victory and the peace. It is also like a foreshadowing that the war may not end so easily. He actually doesn't know nothing about the situation on the front by himself, this may make he feel not so sure about the war, and is probably another reason that he asked the question.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Mon Apr 09, 2018 8:45 pm
In the monologue, the protagonist has shown his calm attitude. He had doubts about whether he would die, but he immediately denied it. "Oh, I won't die. I'm a medical soldier. This war is like a movie to me." It’s like someone cares about certain things but doesn't think about it. This kind of behavior directly shows his fear against the war and the death. "Why the Austro-Hungarian empire was easily defeated this time but it was not. What was the matter with this war?" This is not only a query to the army. It shows in order to gain relief, he chose to blame other parties because he wants to escape from the fear. It is a change in his mind of the war from numb to seriously considering about its potential consequences. Only by facing up to the war made it possible to experience the catastrophe it brings. This is probably a transition phase that is necessary for the protagonist to experience in order to “get prepared” for the subsequent sorrow and pain he would go through.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Mon Apr 09, 2018 10:54 pm
From my perspective, this question showed not only his confusion and puzzle but other soldiers’ as well when he knew the situation of the war. He was puzzled that why Austria-Hungary did not fall apart and ended the war since it was a relatively weak country. What’s more, it was far beyond a question but an expression of his anger. However, he had nothing to change this situation. Indeed, he wanted peace and he was afraid of death because he was scared when he heard that a British ambulance driver was killed. Also, it could also be seen as his exclamation saying that the war was unexpected.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:02 pm
From my own perspective, this question is like a complaint about the current situation of Henry himself. He believed that he would not die, though his life was threatened by this war all the time, even as the ambulance driver. Therefore, when he heard about the British driver’s experience, the fear rose up from the bottom of his heart. He was so dissatisfied with the war which could be suspended earlier or even avoided, so he wished to have maybe Napolean as the leader. “What was the matter with this war?” He had suffered a lot during the war, though his job was not that tough, still, the life was boring and it needed to be repeated again and again, even the love affair will be affected by the war. Like the relationship between Barkley and he, it was screwy and “it is a rotten game.” And the whole war was a rotten game to Henry and the others involved in. People pretended to be good to this chaotic situation, tried to find some surprising events to make their lives more excited. But they lacked of the sense of security. Their lives could be more easy and happy, but nowadays, all the things were ruined by this war.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:34 pm
This question shows his confusion about the situation on the battlefield. The Austrian army, which he always has contempt for its weakness, is now having an incredible progress in the battle. He is confused also because he is an American soldier fighting in the Italian army, which means he cannot feel completely included. With indifference he makes assumptions about the consequences of the war, showing his irresponsible attitude towards the situation on the battlefield. Thus it is not surprising that he is also blaming the war by asking this question for breaking his possibility to go on a holiday and enjoy the peace.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Tue Apr 10, 2018 1:42 am
From my point of view, this question shows his strong desire to survive in this war. He is so frightened of the death especially after the deaths of the two ambulance drivers, that he pays much attention to how long the war will last. He deeply hopes that the war could end as soon as possible. However, this time the situation of the war is quite different from his expectations. Unlike before, the Austria-Hungary is not defeated by others in a short time. This really makes him confused and frustrated. Because just like what he says in the book, he just wants to go to Austria without the war, wants to go to the Black Forest, wants to go to the Hartz mountains. He just wanted to have a peaceful life, but the war destroyed all his beautiful wishes and makes him live under the shadow of the death. By asking this question, he shows his intense dissatisfaction of this war and his strong desire to end this war.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Tue Apr 10, 2018 12:04 pm
The war was rotten, according to the soldier. The author expected a Napoleon, with whom this war would end soon. However, Napoleon was gone, the war wouldn’t be settled down so easily. Nobody wants war, if peace can be reached. The author also wanted to return to Milan, where he could enjoy himself with Ms. Barkley. Leaders in this war, from the author’s perspective, are not qualified, the best among them were merely “look like a general”, soldiers thought about aversion, not how to defeat the adversaries. The war was cruel, but not that kind of cruel. Taking away your beloved ones and never allow them to come back, it was more like torment. Moreover, in my own opinion, war will make people frantic and insane, rationality won’t play an important role in making decisions. Ms. Barkley, however, is still rational. She knew Henry didn’t love her, although he said so, but she wasn’t fooled. Also the author said that the war was not more dangerous than the war in movies to him. It was not the war as we thought, it was rotten.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Tue Apr 10, 2018 2:04 pm
From my point of view, he asked this question in order to show his confusion and odium towards the war. He had already experienced a huge gap between his ideal life and the awful war life.He thought that he should be in vocation under the bright sunlight of Austria instead of driving an ambulance and risk his life in the war.This shows the effect of war on people by destroying their peaceful life and happiness.
Also,the leader of the countries at war were considered to be some weak people by him and that was really annoying for him. Nobody got the ability to conquer their enemies quickly while Europe needed a hero at that moment.
After his witness of a solider's efforts to escape from the war and his failure, he began to question the meaning of this cruel and crazy war. People's value was denied when there was a morbid war. Once you were sent to the battle field, the army forced you to fight until you died. People became tools that could be threw away after they were used up.


Last edited by Peter Wang on Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:16 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Tue Apr 10, 2018 2:23 pm
From my perspective, the first reason why Henry asked this question was that he was confused about the condition or ability of France since that everyone considered France as the weaker one, and France hadn't won the war against Austria-Hungary for a long time. It also showed his fear in a less direct way. The situation of the war was no longer like the time before, the deeper fear came out from this soldier's heart because of the long time cruel warfare that no one knew when it would end. Death, sickness, injuries were everywhere. The last cause was his latent dissatisfaction towards the war. His desire was to have a normal life with the girl he loved, just being a normal citizen in a normal world without having the cruel, lonely life during the war. In brief, Henry's emotion led to the words he said about "what was the matter with the war".
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unbearable weight of life

on Tue Apr 10, 2018 2:29 pm
Henry's desertion is foreshadowed, as he agrees with the soldier from Pittsburgh that they are engaged in a "rotten" war. It stresses the faceless, interchangeable nature of soldiers in wartime, thus, criticizing the psychological damage that war inflicts on individuals and its brutal upheaval of the lives of survivors. In the face of such devastation, as Henry describes in the sentence, all do not matter, and things like victory and defeat are meaningless terms. The question reveals that, unlike soldiers in battles that glorify courage, participants in World War I did not care, and were rather against the war as they were forced to enter this horrible, bloody, long-term and terrifying war. They struggled between life and death in every second, and felt "lonely”, “hollow", and puzzled by the complexity and violence of the war. Henry, as a ambulance driver, sees too many painful boys, too many wounded remnants and too many dead bodies, that he---like most participants of the war---becomes numb, and recognizes every fresh life as merely bodies in order to escape the war’s unbearable weight of life. Henry asks this question when he’s drunk, and it’s obvious that in the novel nearly all of the characters rely heavily on alcohol to numb the daily assaults of the war, both physical and emotional.
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Reply to the question

on Tue Apr 10, 2018 2:42 pm
People sometimes don't understand their puopose to join the war, especially for an American in WWI. Henry might not feel how the war could have affected him, he didn't necessarily hate the other side. He was not fighting for himself, he's not fighting for his country, he was just doing his job. People complain when they are doing something boring and meaningless, especially in a dangerous war. Even though Henry was just an ambulence driver, being relatively safe, his very life was still under threat, more or less. He learnt about two British ambulance drivers died from the war, and he tried to comfort himself that he was safe, but he was truly feeling more and more afraid and anxious. Being involved in the war, you never know when the war would end. Even if they thought Austria-Hungary was going to crack soon, it was not the case. One more day won't make too much of a difference to the war, but it would mean one more day huanted by death for the soldiers, and the normal life was still an unreachable desire.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Tue Apr 10, 2018 6:37 pm
Since his desire to be alive, he did not believe he would die in the war. I think he was just scared of the unknown situation of this war. During that time, he heard everybody said the French were through. According to the words of the soldier he met and the strugglers, he was a little bit worry about the situation of this war. His only way to get the information about this war’s situation was came from the words of the soldiers and the wounded people. He also mentions the leaders of Italy before he said that question, he thought these leaders were too weak and consider to stay with British army. Maybe, just because of his strong desire to be alive and his love to the nurse, he said this question.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Tue Apr 10, 2018 9:13 pm
In my own perspective, the question was asked when the main character was considering about his life and the war. The question was asked maybe because that the main character was kind of not sure about the complex world war. For the main character the war may be finished in only a few days. For example, the Austria-Hungarian army seemed very weak, and could be conquered in a few days. However the war never ended. There are people dying, even the British ambulance driver. The war sometimes seems far away from him, but when people dying, it seemed right in the front of him. There was no certain information about the war, only some unconfirmed pieces of information. French were through or not? Did the army really mutiny? How could I, the main character, know? When facing the ruthless war, our main character was confused by the mess of information, the fear of being killed, and the war that never end. That would be why he ask this question.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Tue Apr 10, 2018 10:59 pm
The main character in the novel, Henry, is a person who loses himself in the war. The war gives him too much uncertainty that makes him wants to escape from it. He doesn’t even know why he joined the war. What he only knows is that it’s his job to do so. He is always wondering why the war doesn’t end as direct as it should be. He wonders why there is no a powerful country to end this war. Living in the war is not appealing for him but more like a plain book that he must read. He doesn’t know what he should do. Also, he wants to survive and live a better life in peace. The life of the war is too boring for him that he wants to have another life which is totally different from he is undergoing. He is eager to have a life that is comfortable and could live with a person he likes. At least he could know what he should do and what he wants.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Sat Apr 14, 2018 9:52 pm

The tone was bitter, unbelievable, and also with hatred. Everyone suffered in a war, being an ambulance driver, though he could escape many risks at the front line, he was also the one who witnessed the cruelty of this war. As he just met a soldier who deliberately wanted to get wounded just to leave the front line. Seeing those horrible scenes must made him more want this war to end. Henry was just an ordinary man, not patriotic, not radical, who only wanted to have some instant romance and travel to a places without bombs flying all day long. The war was ruining people’s life, and certainly Henry was tired of this rotten game. The worse thing that the war had on people, was the sense of uncertainty. Last second, you were drinking wine, next second, dude you were dead. So when hearing the British driver was killed in the war, Henry was embraces with the sense of insecurity, of course he didn’t want to die in this stupid war. Realizing the war was a total chaos and might be a threat to his own life, this question expressed his anger and desire.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Mon Apr 16, 2018 9:17 am
In my perspective, this question embodied the confusion of him that he have no idea about what was happening. The unbelievable part of war was about Austria-Hungary. They didn’t break up thought they always lost in the war. It contributed to the continuous of the war. He hoped the war could end soon. He had a strong desire to survive because the afraid of death. But he realized that he was in great danger, high possibility to die. He asked the question to blame the war, too. He wished the war to end, but the reality showed no trend.
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Re: What's the matter with the war?

on Mon Apr 16, 2018 6:17 pm
I think that the writing style of Hemingway, especially for a foreign language speaker, is really annoying. The sentences lack sufficient conjunctions which use logic to connect the words. Take a sentence from Chapter 3, “ I had gone to no place where the roads were frozen and hard as iron, where it was clear cold and dry and the snow was dry and powdery and hare-tracks in the snow and the peasants took off their hats and called you Lord and there was good hunting. I had gone to no such place but to the smoke of cafe and nights when the room whirled and you needed to look at the wall to make it stop, nights in bed, drunk, when you knew that that was all there was, and the strange excitement of waking and not knowing who it was with you, and the world all unreal in the dark and so exciting that you must resume again unknowing and not caring in the night, sure that this was all and all and all and not caring. Suddenly to care very much and to sleep to wake with it sometimes morning and all that had been there gone and everything sharp and hard and clear and sometimes a dispute about the cost. … … ”. There are too many “and” which makes the sentences long and trifling. I gradually started to pay attention only to little details as the objects are scattered and separated by the word “and”. I hardly get a comprehensive view of the scene. Thus, I was distracted easily and I can’t focus on the story’s plots. And I read really fast when I met little or short words, so it makes it harder for me to achieve an overall understanding. In comparison, I take a sentence from Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Chapter 1: “Two doors from one corner on the left hand going east, the line was broken by the entry of a court; and just at that point a certain sinister block of building thrust forward its gable on the street. It was two stories high; showed no window, nothing but a door on the lower story and a blind forehead of discolored wall on the upper; and bore in every feature the marks of prolonged and sordid negligence.” This sentence uses a lot of verbs - “going”, “broken”, and “thrust forward” ; many adjectives - “sinister”, “two stories high”, “lower”, “blind”, “discolored”, “bore prolonged” and “sordid”; and there are also many nouns - “doors”, “corner”, “line”, “entry”, “court”, “building”, “gable”, “street”, “window”, “story”, “forehead”, “wall”. From the precise and detailed description, I clearly know what the author wanted to describe. The junctions or the verbs connect the objects logically. I can really imagine a scene of the street and how a sinister building suddenly appeared in a clean and tidy neighborhood which was really strange and frightened.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Tue Apr 17, 2018 10:12 pm
To interpret this sentence from its surface meaning, I can say that he's rather astonished by the fact that Austria turned out to perform better in war. He's expressing his surprise by asking this question in the monologue. However, I consider that there may exist some other purpose behind this question. From my perspective, the sentence is conveying his discontent and bewilder towards the whole war event. The war that he is experiencing might be, with no exaggeration, much more severe and intense in comparison with those that he might have been or heard before. 'What was the matter with this war?' He dumps his strong emotions all into this question, with the aim for readers to have the empathy to all who participate in the war event.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Sun May 20, 2018 9:35 am
I believe that he asked such question to express his hatred to what the war has done of is Homeland ( or Italy, since he's American) and sympathy towards the soldiers. He sees the beautiful paradise disappear in ashes, and wishes to express his content for such a unnecessary massacre. As an ambulance driver, Henry has experienced, or at least seen, the worst. Though delivering wounded soldiers everyday, seeing blood and pain has sculpted a soul of steel, this still couldn't stop his from expressing is sympathy for all those who gave their lives to this "pointless" war. Saying "I'm a medical soldier. War is like a movie to me". Although appears to be saying that he's safe from the Austrians, actually subtly says that everyone else is losing their lives while medical soldiers are safe to relax and drink. Henry expresses his aversion towards such inequity. Another important reason why he asks "What's the matter with the war" is his confusion. Austrians have been defeated, quite too often. Seeing them hold up with the Italians, dragging this war into a stalemate provokes fear. Fear of the future. Henry desperately wishes to be able to relax, go back home, be safe, be isolated form such bloodshed, yet this war keeps dragging on. Henry is confused at why the Austrians have held up for so long, after all, history wasn't kind to them.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Tue May 29, 2018 5:53 pm
At the time of the war, Henry struggled only to live through the mass of the war. Fear sank deep into his mind especially when he heard about the death of the two ambulance drivers. He was not a superhero, he is too normal to feel the profit brought by the disastrous war. The Dark Forest or the Hartz mountains, the place he wanted to have a visit, seems so far away since the Austria was not yet defeated. A simpler and a more delightful life could have been more available if the war was evitable. However, even though his expectation towards life is really not so ambitious, he have to live under the shade of death with no choice. Wasn't the war occurred for the peace and the happiness of the people? Then where is it? At least he can't feel it. The condition was getting worse and the people who call themselves leaders were too undependable. What was it all for?
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

on Mon Jun 04, 2018 9:45 am
At that time, the morale of soldiers began to plunge as the war just dragged on with any substantial breakthrough. Henry, being an American on the Italian army at the front, though as a driver who didn't directly involve in battles, felt discouraged to go on with the war. Especially, people around him were beginning to die over unnecessary causes, he was extremely disappointed by this. His attitude towards the war also reflected those of many soldiers fighting on the front, as they did not understand why the Austrian had to go on with the war.
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Re: "What was the matter with this war?" Why does he ask this question?

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