Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell, 1938
I had been about ten days at the front when it happened. The whole experience of
being hit by a bullet is very interesting and I think it is worth describing in detail.
It was at the corner of the parapet, at five o’clock in the morning. This was always
a dangerous time, because we had the dawn at our backs, and if you stuck your
head above the parapet it was clearly outlined against the sky. I was talking to the
sentries preparatory to changing the guard. Suddenly, in the very middle of
saying something, I felt – it was very hard to describe what I felt, though I
remember it with the utmost vividness.
Roughly speaking it was the sensation of being at the centre of an explosion.
There seemed to be a loud bang and a blinding flash of light all round me, and I
felt a tremendous shock – no pain, only a violent shock, such as you get from an
electric terminal; with it a sense of utter weakness, a feeling of being stricken and
shriveled up to nothing. The sandbags in front of me receded into immense
distance. I fancy you would feel much the same if you were struck by lightning. I
knew immediately that I was hit, but because of the seeming bang and flash I
thought it was a rifle nearby that had gone off accidentally and shot me. All this
happened in a space of time much less than a second. The next moment my knees
crumpled up and I was falling, my head hitting the ground with a violent bang,
which to my relief, did not hurt. I had a numb, dazed feeling, a consciousness of
being very badly hurt, but no pain in the ordinary sense.
The American sentry I had been talking to had started forward. 'Gosh! Are you
hit?' People gathered round. There was the usual fuss - 'Lift him up! Where's he
hit? Get his shirt open!' etc., etc. The American called for a knife to cut my shirt
open. I knew that there was one in my pocket and tried to get it out, but
discovered that my right arm was paralysed. Not being in pain, I felt a vague
satisfaction. This ought to please my wife, I thought; she had always wanted me
to be wounded, which would save me from being killed when the great battle
came. It was only now that it occurred to me to wonder where I was hit, and how
badly; I could feel nothing, but I was conscious that the bullet had struck me
somewhere in the front of my body. When I tried to speak I found that I had no
voice, only a faint squeak, but at the second attempt I managed to ask where I
was hit. In the throat, they said, Harry Webb, our stretcherbearer, had brought a
bandage and one of the little bottles of alcohol they gave us for field-dressings. As
they lifted me up a lot of blood poured out of my mouth, and I heard a Spaniard
behind me say that the bullet had gone clear through my neck. I felt the alcohol,
which at ordinary times would sting like the devil, splash on to the wound as a
Orwell, George. Homage to Catalonia. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1952. Print.
Which choice is most accurately represents the theme of the passage?