“Get up and walk! Coney, get up and walk! You lousy, yellow Jew Bastard, get up and walk!” (Laurents, 121). “Home of the Brave,” by Arthur Laurents, taught and gave hope to audiences about the psychological damage war has on it’s soldiers. “Peter “Coney” Coen (is) unable to walk (and) lies in his hospital bed as his doctor, Captain Bitterger (Jeff Talbott), works to get him back on his feet. Coney has not been injured, however. His paralysis is psychological, and the doctor, a psychiatrist, uses “narcosynthesis” to rehabilitate him,” (Gutman).
We live through Coney’s devastation at first. He takes the audience back to his experience on the island. He is there with a few other soldiers in order to create a map; a map that will be absolutely necessary for invasion. But while they are there his best friend Finch is shot and tortured. This scene is an example of the sort of experiences soldiers have out on the battle field. It doesn’t get any better when Coney is with his group, he leaves Finch to recover the maps, and they hear Finch screaming. This is the Japanese way of getting the other soldiers to give up where they are. Coney has been forced to stay where he is by the Major. And if that wasn’t horrific enough, Finch drags his bloody body all the way to Coney and this is where Coney is mentally paralyzed from the waist down. This gives the audience an idea of what can cause such psychological paralysis.
But there must be a solution to such devastation, something that can comfort those who are dealing with family members with psychological scars that have resulted from war. Throughout the play there are scenes where we see the Doctor working with Coney. The doctor takes Coney through every detail of his experience. “You left him and you ran through the jungle, didn’t you? And you walked around the clearing on the beach? So your legs were alright. Then if anything did happen to your legs, it happened when Finch crawled back,” (Laurents, 117). The Doctor makes Coney face how he felt when he was leaving Finch: “Did you leave him there because you were glad? Did you leave him there because you were ashamed? Because you were afraid?” (Laurents, 120). The doctor concludes saying “you left him because that was what you had to do,” (Laurents, 120). It’s horrid but effect. “Since U.S. involvement in the war was so late and so limited, perhaps it is understandable that by the time the Second World War rolled around, “shell shock” wasn’t something most soldiers or their families were familiar with. Besides, large numbers of American military personnel never saw combat in WW II.” It was great that Arthur Laurent could give audiences a snippet of what was troubling their family members
The audience is given a little understanding of what causes PTSD, how they try to cure it, and then they are told why most soldiers aren’t cured before they come home. The doctor must kick Coney out of the hospital because a new batch of soldiers who have PTSD will be coming in and the army isn’t set up to help all of them. The Doctor comes into Coney’s vicinity absolutely irritated that he has to do so because healing the mind takes a great amount of time. But since nothing has been set up back home for Coney the Doctor urges for him to use the rest of his time there to the best of his ability. Give everything he can give in order to get rid of his PTSD.
Coney does go on to live a normal life even after such an experience.
As a pat on the back to those who have had to do terrible things such as leave a man behind, the Doctor gives some comfort: “the job comes first. The men count. But they count second. How many were there on that mission? Five. But you were doing that job for hundreds, for thousands, for the whole goddamn war. That’s a little more important,” (Laurents, 9).
By K. Marsh
Gutman, Les. “A CurtainUp Review: Home of the Brave.” CurtainUp. 1999.
Laurents, Arthur. “Home of the Brave.” A Random House Play. 1949.
“PTSD and the Myths of WWII.” Progressive Historians. 3/12/07.