Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character

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Atheneum, 1994 - Psychology - 246 pages
51 Reviews
"The number of books on the Vietnam War is, by now, vast and varied. 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. Gradually, it has come to be known that the combat veterans of Vietnam suffer, in appalling numbers, from what is known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 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. (For a full discussion of PTSD and its symptoms, see the Introduction and Chapter 10.) 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." "For many years, Dr. 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." "Drawing at length on these men's vivid and heart-rending words, as well as on Dr. 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."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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Review: Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character

User Review  - Holly - Goodreads

This is a somewhat difficult book to review, but I would go so far as to say this is an absolute must-read for understanding combat trauma. The Achilles argument was enlightening because it ... Read full review

Review: Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character

User Review  - Michael O. - Goodreads

Shay does a surprisingly good job with literary analysis of the Iliad, and he explains PTSD well. The best parts of the book are the stories by actual vets about their experiences in the war and in ... Read full review


Betrayal of Whats Right
Shrinkage of the Social and Moral Horizon 2 3
Grief at the Death of a Special Comrade 3 9

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About the author (1994)

Jonathan Shay is a Boston-area psychiatrist whose patients are Vietnam combat veterans with severe, chronic post-traumatic stress disorder in the Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic. He is also on the faculty of Tufts Medical School. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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