By Susan Kingsley Kent
Aftershocks reviews how meanings of shellshock and imagery proposing the traumatized psyche as shattered contributed to Britons' understandings in their political selves within the Nineteen Twenties. It connects the strength of feelings to the political tradition of a decade which observed awesome violence opposed to these considered as 'un-English'.
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Additional resources for Aftershocks: Politics and Trauma in Britain, 1918–1931
In language signiﬁcant for its imagery of the war, he added, “opposite the house was a great inﬁrmary where, I learned, people were cut open. ” The “cutting up of living bodies” haunted his dreams and perhaps his waking hallucinations as he lay in bed under a picture of a gypsy woman. “When I thought I was asleep the picture would open on loud hinges and disclose the world of cutting up live but uncomplaining bodies,” he recounted. “It was lighted by ﬁre. I was given the choice of joining the bodies or else remaining where I was, in the big lumpy ﬂock bed which was steadily ﬁlling with horse shit .
The war ﬁnished Scrap,” wrote Arnim. ” A persistent “noise” in her head crowded out any possibility of thinking coherently. Her mind “clogged,” she sought quiet that might enable her to “really clear up her mind; really come to some conclusion . . ” Like a piece of paper blown about from place to place, Scrap could not settle or ﬁnd mooring. ” Rose Macaulay’s 1919 What Not, A Prophetic Comedy declared that wars “put a sudden end to many of the best intellects, the keenest, ﬁnest minds, which would have built up the shattered ruins of the world in due time.
33 The images of wartime and the model of the mind as shattered, experienced by millions of people, may have been sufﬁciently contagious to produce a whole society—already reeling with unbearable grief and loss—with similar visions and understandings of the nature of the self, however unconscious they might have been. Certainly this imagery of shattering informed popular renditions of the post war mind. As we have seen, combat veterans represented their minds as fragmented and shattered in the memoirs that poured forth beginning in 1928.