Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Caitlin  Barrett
Dramatic Effects of War on Characters in the Works of John Hersey Battlefield Medicine in World War II
John  Hersey
Within the chronicles of World War II exists the relatively untold story of battlefield medicine. During this time, members of the armed forces received the most advanced medical care available. The success of the medical program was the result of an effective system of evacuating soldiers from the front, advanced medical technology, and a comprehensive system of preventive medicine. Critically important to the treatment of casualties was the “chain of evacuation” that consisted of increasingly specialized hospitals, each staffed with trained medical personnel. The advent of advanced therapeutic agents, such as plasma, sulfonamides, and penicillin ushered in a new age of medical treatment where conditions, once considered fatal, easily succumbed to medication. These treatments and hospitals, coupled with an effective system of preventing diseases, succeeded in reducing hospitalizations and fatalities during the war.

John Hersey, a war journalist turned fiction writer, explores the dramatic effects of war on his characters in three of his World War II novels, A Bell for Adano, The Wall, and The War Lover. Through vivid descriptions of war and the dangerous experiences that result from such a situation, Hersey provides a catalyst for the inevitable development of his characters. By effectively describing the dangerous situations surrounding his characters, Hersey uses the presence of war to assist in positive and negative character development. Some characters, moved by the love they feel for their friends and family, risk their lives for the good of others; while others, overcome with fear and selfishness, endanger others in a vain attempt at self-preservation. Hersey examines the process by which these characters evolve and through accurate descriptions of war offers concrete motives behind these characterizations.

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