“We are all affected by war in some way, however slight” Scott Anderson’s Triage reveals the affects war has on people by linking the characters through war and parallel stories. From a pressured Dr. Talzani operating in a cave in Kurdistan to Mark and Colin who are war photographers and Elena and Diane their partners . As well as a ‘specialist’ war psychiatrist, Joaquin Morales. Anderson uses various techniques and symbols to communicate these ideas and writes in a conversational format to incorporate the reader into the journey.
Talzani is a dark mysterious character who suppresses his emotions and detaches himself of any responsibilities in others fate to cope with his job of Triaging his patients. With limited provisions Talzani is under constant stress as the wounded soldiers are omitted more frequently and although the doctor wants to save everyone he possible can’t. Talzani uses humor to get by, “If I stay here long enough, I will start killing more people than I save ”. Talzani is affected by his job of killing the soldiers who have received a blue tag and after he does this his hands were noted shaking and he takes a routine ‘smoko’.Order now
However Dr. Talzani mainly copes by believing in fate, “My little tags are for them, because they need to believe there is a system. For me, I know it is all fate ”, “There is no explanation for who dies and lives in war…We invent all types of explanation and superstitions for why things happen” . We are shown how this technique is successful by how Talzani reveals how he sleeps easy at night even when he admits to handing out wrong tags to his patients. “Men suffering from nothing more than dehydration or a broken arm…have been given blues”.
Joaquin Morales is a retired ‘unorthodox’ Physiatrist, who was head of a Mental Purification Institution which restored soldiers from the Spanish civil war. During the civil war Joaquin fled from his home leavening his family behind and survived months in the Aplujarra Mountains whilst being hunted by death squads. Morales initially deals with his losses by his faith in God, shown when he interprets a bright light from sand dunes in Africa as being a sign. This allowed him to ‘turn away from the past’ and make the most of the future. Morales is later affected by war through his patients.
Joaquin deals with his regretful past by erasing them from his memory, shown by how Joaquin buries his patient’s files in his basement. Morales also keeps a positive attitude and strives to make the best of the future shown by how he keeps persisting to connect with Elena after continuous rejection. Like-wise to Talzani, Morales sees himself as the ‘good guy’ and disconnects himself of responsibility to his patients. Particularly with the ‘incurables’, where we find out Morales kills the men he can’t cure and justifies it as saving people lives. What was I supposed to do? Should I have let the killers continue as they were? … How many lives did I save? I believe I saved many”. Mark Walsh tries to hide behind his camera lens but can’t escape responsibility of what he sees. For instance in Beirut Mark had the chance to save a boy as he ran towards him, but Mark kept on taking photos as the boy was shot down. At the start of the novel Mark deals with his job by having a secretive nature and holding information from his partner Elena, which ultimately threatens their relationship.
As well as having ‘debriefing’ get to gathers with colleagues and keeping a simple living room, the opposite to his job. However Mark becomes both physically and spiritually numbed after the bomb blast in Kurdistan, where he loses his close friend Colin. As well as other guilt Mark has suppressed he finally breaks down for not giving Colin his last wish of taking him home to New York. Marks old ways of dealing with war fall in vain and he learns alternative ways throughout the journey of the novel from other characters.
Mark learns from his father, an ex WWII veteran, a real man is affected by war and needs outlets for suppressed feelings. As the novel progresses Talzani reveals to Mark through his absentminded shuffling of the tags, that life and death is fate and not to take responsibility. Finally Joaquin takes Mark on as a patient and shows him how to forgive himself, forget the past and ‘look forward to future laughter’ . Mark then comes to grips with war and the death of Colin, signified by the release of flower petals down the Guatemala River. Elena is Marks Spanish Lover.
She is first hand affected by war through the volunteer work at the UN office, where she tries to reconnect refugee families. “The horror that passed over her desk-muted by its reduction onto paper, sanitized into the language of bureaucrats- was enough for her” . Like wise to Mark and his camera Elena distances herself from war but still feels some responsibility, “In those reports… she could feel the despair, hear the sounds of a family or a village dying, smell the awful stench of it” , ” How many people remained lost to each other… because she had typed a wrong number in a birth date” .
Elena deals with her job by the satisfaction she gets from making a difference, ’She savored these Miracles’. Elena is second handedly affected by war through other characters. Mainly with her affectionate relationship with Mark, Elena shares Marks pain “She tried to remember his old face…before the pain settled in” and when she breaks into tears at a family reunion in Madrid. Elena deals with Marks job by not thinking about Mark and keeping busy with her UN where she feels she can connect with him.
As well as redecorating the living room when Mark is away. Elena dislikes Marks profession and jumps at any opportunity for Mark not going to the next war zone “Now after three years, she wanted to live free of fear, free of the strategies she devised to make it all bearable” Elena is also affected by her best friend Dianne, Collins Partner. Elena shares the emotional ride of Dianne pregnancy together with the loss of Colin. Lastly Elena is also affect by her ‘Fascist Father Confessor’, which separates her from her family.
By linking characters through war Anderson reveals how the characters are all affected by war by taking us on the journey of Marks purification. Anderson intertwines social issues such as Triage tags which question our society’s morals and uses analogies and cliches to communicate these ideas. As well as the use of various symbols and underlying themes, Anderson adapts the language to the target audience and shows us the affects war has on people and their spirit, however slight. Word Count: 1070