JENN K. – Shellshocked Marine – Post 7

This week instead of focusing on the primary sources, I figured a more in depth analysis of PTSD was needed. The book used will be Jonathan Shay’s Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character. Reviewing both McCullin’s photograph of the shell-shocked marine, and his own testimony via interviews and his books one can argue that to some degree McCullin suffers from PTSD. My analysis centers on the legacy of this photo, so the personal legacy McCullin has with the photo and PTSD is important to recognize. This photograph also came out in 1971, when the idea of a long-term version of shell shock just began entering the public and medical communities. The most important thing pulled from Shay’s text offering insight is the idea of dishonoring the enemy. Shay uses the word dishonoring to refer to the dehumanization of the enemy in war.

By dishonoring the enemy, one can distance themselves from the humanity of the enemy. This to some level is necessary when fighting in war, because to have a human enemy means to have an enemy who a soldier may not be able to kill if needed. Yet there is a point where it becomes too far, this can be seen by the cruelties and war crimes of certain individuals in response to attacking the enemy. One moving quote by a veteran reads, “Well, he’s the enemy, ain’t he? You couldn’t kill them if you thought he was just like you,” (Shay 103). This dishonor needs to be recognized and modified if a soldier can ever hope to move past the effects of PTSD. By recognizing the humanity of the enemy one can begin to reconcile the traumatic events of their past in terms of reality instead of a suspended situation outside of the normal mores of society.


Shay, Jonathan. Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character. New York: Scribner, 1994. Print.

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