How does Scott Anderson's 'Triage' explore war?

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Scott Anderson’s Triage explores many aspects of war and the effects that it has on people. The text arguably focuses on the emotional toll that it takes on people who merely witness it and those who suffer loss because of it and, furthermore, explores the different ways people deal with it. Also, issues regarding the randomness of death in war are also dealt with by drawing parallels between characters. In the first chapter we meet Ahmet Talzani, the triage doctor whose system severely shocks Mark. His job in many ways is similar to Elena’s job in New York.

Elena reunites families of refugees all around the world. although her job seems harmless and straight forward, it is not because there are countless incidents of misspelled names and misplaced records. Elena must decide how long she can spend on each case without jeopardising other cases. After looking for a record of Mahmoud Ali Rabbani three times, Elena gives up and placed it [the record] face down to the left of the computer. This essentially is the same as Talzani’s work he regularly has to decide who to save because any one who is going to take up two hours of my time to save is not worth saving. Both Elena and Talzani work under time constraints with victims of war and are frustrated by the randomness of their own systems. By drawing this parallel between Elena’s work and Talzani’s work, Anderson explores the ‘randomness’ of war by comparing it with something similar in a more innocuous, ‘everyday’ context. Hence, the reader is shown that although these things seem vicious at war similar decisions are made all over the world and, to an extent, these decisions are necessary in many situations. A witness to Talzani’s ungodly process was Mark who was, in turn, deeply affected by what he saw.

Joaquin and Mark have both witnessed and suffered loss due to war and by juxtaposing the way in which both characters are affected by this, the different ways people are affected by war is explored.

When his friend is killed in an explosion in Kurdistan and he himself is injured, Mark’s psyche is irrevocably damaged by the accumulated war trauma he has witnessed. He suffers partial amnesia as the brain shuts down recollections of Colin’s terrible death. As a war correspondent, he photographs the centres of modern warfare and has witnessed many horrific scenes. But Mark persists that he is completely unaffected by what he sees. His father is the first to underline the damage that can ensue � this shit takes a toll � because snapshots of the terror of war remain in the memory forever. Upon returning to New York, Mark realises that his life has changed forever and feels that he would be walking into a new life, that never again would he be the easy, confident man he had been. This has been caused by a traumatic combination of physical injuries, seeing Colin’s life ebb away and his experience of Talzani’s ‘triage’ process.

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Likewise, Mark’s new found emotional companion Joaquin has witnessed and been subjected to horrible things because of war yet he deals with it differently. Of all the characters in Triage, Joaquin has suffered and lost the most. He lost his family during the civil war and literally ran into a new life, he then lived through the death of his son and the slow death of his wife. Then his last genetic relation, Elena, abandoned him under the impression that he was a fascist. So, in short, Joaquin outlived and lost everyone he ever loved and yet he has carried it with me [him] forever and still feels that the world is a wonderful place.

Scott Anderson creates a dichotomy between Mark who suppresses his experiences, and Joaquin who has accepted what has happened to him and persists with life remembering those he has lost. This is seen clearly when Elena observes the pictures of people who have been in Joaquin’s life all round his study. This dichotomy � or contrast if you will � is used to explore the different effects war and horrifying experiences can have on a person if you suppress the experience opposed to embracing and dealing with what has happened. It is arguably concluded that suppressing experience and emotion can accumulate and in the long term can be far more detrimental to a person.

Triage deals with, in far more abundance, the emotional effects of war that outlive the physical effects. In all the characters, even in the stories Mark tells, there is more focus on the effect war has had on peoples’ emotions.

Mark returns from Kurdistan with considerably severe injuries ranging from mere bruises to shrapnel lodged in his skull. These injuries, however, occupy only a small portion of the text relative to the emotional toll war has on Mark. The theme of Mark counting the amount of steps it takes him to cross his living room is only present for a part of the text, however, the plot revolves around the theme of Mark’s emotional journey to accepting what he has gone through. Furthermore, the wider emotional affect war has on people is also explored through Diane dealing with Colin’s death and Elena’s accepting of the lack of information Mark gives her on what happens at the war zones he visits. War is explored in Triage as something that inflicts emotional damages that out way the physical damages.

Triage conducts a thorough exploration of the emotional toll war can take on people and the different way of dealing with such issues. In regard to dealing with emotional damage, it is concluded that embracing, understanding and remembering what one has gone through assists in the healing process. It is also concluded that suppressing issues merely accumulates emotions and is far more damaging in the long run. The randomness of war is also dealt with by drawing a parallel between Talzani who directly deals with victims of war and Elena who indirectly helps victims of war find their loved ones.

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