Sample Essay - Score of 6
Reactions to World Wars one and two in expressed by the artistic community and historically do not support the idea that the world is changing for the better. One example of the negative effects of World War two psychologically may be taken from Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Ceremony. The novel’s protagonist, Tayo, a young native american veteran living on a reservation, returns from his war experience severely mentally damaged, referring to himself at one point as “white smoke”. The novel expresses several times that Tayo is only one case of many damaged young native americans who return from this war. Elders of the Laguna native american tribe express distress at the fact that they will not be able to heal their returning World War two warriors with traditional war healing ceremonies, and Tayo believes this is because warfare has changed dramatically.
The tribe, losing many members to the war physically and psychologically, suffers weakening blows. It is clear that the difference between old warfare in which warriors could face their enemies and new warfare in which soldiers shoot blindly across distances is great. The destruction of modern warfare witnessed by the new veterans was devastating in a ruinous way as it never had been. The resulting threat of the disintegration of the tribe as old healing techniques fail weakens the tribe in ways it had never been weakened before.
A similar mental disintegration, tied in with a lack of optimism was seen a great deal following World War one. Before the war, old Enlightenment ideas of rational thought, progress, and the goodness of mankind abounded. The incredible and unprecedented destruction seen in World War one, however, combined with the psychological effect of the use of the newest mass-destruction and chemical weapons proved to quash the pre-war sentiment of optimism and post-Enlightenment zeal. New weapons such as mustard gas and machine guns could kill thousands in unspeakably brutal ways, and the casualties of the war, greater than any in history, showed the weapons to be very effective. The loss of human life in hundreds of thousands, combined with the destruction of European land at the end of World War one proved to crush the morale of the European populace and to discourage optimism with regard to scientific progress; scientific progress had only served to cause destruction and horror in war.
The negative psychological repercussions of World War one and two served to give people, particularly Europeans, a less optimistic view of the world and of mankind. The change in weaponry and style of warfare, visible in the example of Silko’s Ceremony, contribute to the the idea that the world was not changing for the better; the new warriors of Ceremony could not be healed, and the optimistic, naive vision of preworld war two Europe could not be restored. If man could cause such immense physical and psychological destruction with the products of scientific change, the world could not have changed for the better.