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Unsettled distinction.

“’And then we ran back here so we wouldn’t have to look at what we had done.’
His right foot was buried past his ankle. I understood now why he was doing that.
‘How deep is this hole?’ he asked me.
‘Not very deep,’ I said.
He pulled his foot out of the ground and shook the dirt from his shoes.
‘Good,’ he said. ‘It’s already more than they deserve.’” (234)
This passage is striking when one considers that these bodies are the dead of ‘their’ side, not the enemy – and that their fellow soldiers could not rest unless they buried them in their own village. The relationship that Isaac has to these bodies reflects self-hatred and search for distancing from the evil that war brings. Was he not, earlier that day, ‘with’ these men buried now beneath him? By scorning his troop’s actions he scorns himself, indirectly. The image of shaking dirt from his shoes reflects Isaac’s efforts to rid himself of the weight and ownership – metaphorical ‘dirt’ – that rests on his murderous consciousness. So quickly does he shift from being a part of a ‘we’ to placing them apart as ‘they.’ For in reality, he is still alive to make such a distinction. Does his hatred come from ‘their’ failure to make it through the violence? Does he see himself as better for surviving? Or does his expressed distaste shield a weakness and insecurity for what the next day… evening… or hour will bring? The end of the above passage is the final line in the chapter, resting within the reader’s brain. Isaac’s words do not sit well, not for you, me, him and presumably, the narrator. Both Isaac and the narrator lie on both sides of that grave; one who saw the events previous to their death, the other who was forced to face the bodies after death. Even if the action of the fighting remains at a distance from the narrator, one can sense the violence coming closer towards the forefront. What will be next?

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