Although this book was published some time ago, it is relevant today considering many veterans have recently returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Author Jonathan Shay is a psychiatrist who treated a group of Vietnam combat veterans diagnosed with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD. Yet, Shay concentrates on the negative psychiatric effects and the ruining of good character that often results from some military experiences. It is obvious from reading the book that the author is an advocate of measures that will prevent these negative effects.

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This is one of the toughest books that I have read to date and pretty much halfway through the chapter on grief I found that my brain had been reduced to slush. Now, I have never been to war and never A fascinating examination of the PTSD that affected the efforts of Homer's Odysseus to return home from the year-long Trojan War, seen through the eyes of veterans of modern American conflicts Jonathan Shay.

Until recently, however, there has been very little for the public to read about the psychological effect of that conflict on the men who fought in it. Indeed, of the three quarters of a million surviving combat veterans, one quarter of a million suffer from this disorder and the personal costs it imposes.

In Achilles in Vietnam, Dr. Jonathan Shay casts new, challenging, and irrefutable light on the lives of these men and the ravages of combat trauma on their minds and spirits. Shay has been the psychiatrist for a group of Vietnam veterans. In that time, he has come to see an overwhelming and undeniable similarity between their experiences and those of the soldiers in the Iliad; after all, this centuries-old epic is about soldiers in war and its disastrous consequences for their character.

More specifically, the elements of Achilles story - the betrayal by his commander, the shrinking of his moral and social world to a small group of friends, the death of one or more of these comrades, the accompanying feelings of grief, guilt, and numbness followed by a "berserk" rage - are heard over and over in the stories of these men who were once soldiers and are still caught up in that old struggle.

Shay's own close, ingenious, and persuasive reading of Homer's classic story, Achilles in Vietnam has already been acclaimed by soldiers, writers, classicists, and psychiatrists. It should transform any and all future discussions of the Vietnam War. All Rights Reserved. Sarkies - LibraryThing This is one of the toughest books that I have read to date and pretty much halfway through the chapter on grief I found that my brain had been reduced to slush.

Grief at the Death of a Special Comrade. Guilt and Wrongful Substitution. Shrinkage of the Social and Moral Horizon. Lee Goerner.


Jonathan Shay

Jonathan Shay born [1] [2] is a doctor and clinical psychiatrist. He holds a B. A from Harvard and an M. Shay's early medical work was laboratory research on how central nervous system cells are affected by strokes , [4] [5] [6] [7] but after suffering a stroke himself, he went to work for the United States Department of Veterans' Affairs outpatient clinic in Boston.


Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character

This book, a study of posttraumatic stress disorder victims among U. Vietnam veterans which considers the Iliadic Achilles as a test-case, has a clear tripartite structure. The third section argues for the inadequacy of the U. The four reservations I set forth here are meant on the whole to offer the perspective of a Homerist, and are discussed in detail in my The Heart of Achilles: Characterization and Personal Ethics in the Iliad. First, Shay recognizes the vital role of honor in Iliadic society, but does not point home quite clearly enough that honoring the enemy was built into the Iliadic warrior-ethic: the intensely individualistic sense of honor insisted that combatants knew one another by [End Page ] name, for anonymity was uniformly detested. Third, I suggest that Shay underplays the meeting of Priam and Achilles in Iliad 24 where, as I have argued, Achilles goes far beyond what is commended by the reciprocity-driven warrior honor code, achieving a magnanimity which modern philosophers like Bernard Williams would call altruism.

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