The readings this week, with the exception of Whitman’s The Wound-Dresser, were all from people who were clearly on one side or the other of the Civil War. Reading them helped me to understand people’s view from both sides, but The Wound-Dresser was the most interesting to read, and brought a new, third angle to the discussion of the war.
Whitman writes from the perspective of a nurse, or someone who is going through the hospital tending to the wounded. This person, unlike the authors and other writers I read this week, is not on either side of the war. He says “was one side so brave? the other was equally brave;” indicating his impartiality. This poem makes me think several things. One is that, even though they are all divided and they hate each other and are going to war for what they personally believe in, after it’s over, they’re all the same. They’re just men who wanted to protect their families and way of living. Bullets don’t discriminate, and neither should the people who can hep them when they’ve been hurt. Once they’ve been wounded and are in the hospital, the ‘would-dresser’ goes around and helps each person regardless of what side they might be on. He doesn’t even mention which side’s hospital he is in, making the emphasis on the unimportance of ‘sides’ even bigger.
My other thoughts about this poem is that it is, in a sense, timeless. What I mean is that although it was written about the Civil War, this scene of the ‘wound-dresser’ coming around in the hospital is a scene that could have happened at any time in history, during any war, including the present day. This could be taking place in the US during the Civil War, in Vietnam, in Afghanistan, or anywhere there has been fighting. As long as there are conflicts between large groups of people, there will be fighting. And as long as there is fighting, there will be the injured and the dead, and there will the few doctors and nurses that take care of them all.
The man in the poem talks about the bravery of the wounded on both sides, but he doesn’t mention the other kind of bravery, which is his own for being able to continue going around and around to all the wounded men and taking care of them. I would not be able to do anything like that. He sits by men and watches them die, and continues on to the next man, tending “the amputated hand” and “the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound”, and continues with an “impassive hand”. This poem definitely made me think a lot and I liked it a lot. It was the most interesting reading I did this week.