Them Others by Stacy Aumonier
In Them Others by Stacy Aumonier we have the theme of loss, connection, hope, suffering and struggle. Narrated using a frame narrative the reader realises after reading the story that Aumonier may be exploring the theme of loss. Mrs Ward fells the loss of Ernie who is missing in action. Her life changes in such a way that she doesn’t really know which way to turn with it being obvious to the reader that Mrs Ward is desperate for some news on Ernie’s whereabouts. What is also interesting about the story is that Mrs Ward can identify with Mrs Stelling and the loss she too must be feeling over her sons being involved in the war. It is also noticeable that Mrs Ward is not judging Mrs Stelling as being the enemy because she is German but is making an identification with her as a mother. It is as though Mrs Ward without knowing it is connecting with Mrs Stelling. It may also be important that Tom accepts that Ernie may be dead yet Mrs Ward never loses hope. She may be down and depressed about matters but she remains resilient.
It is also clear to the reader that Mrs Ward is suffering (as too is Tom). Ernie appears to have been a light in her life. Something that is clearer to the reader when Mrs Ward recalls the incident with the five tons of coal. She appears to like Ernie’s mischievous element and there is no doubting that Ernie is mischievous. Particularly when he nearly gives his mother a heart attack on his arrival home. It is as though Ernie has taken everything in his stride. However the effects of the war on Ernie are noticeable. He finds it hard to tell his story. This too could be important as Ernie would have been a witness to many atrocities during the war and like a lot of soldiers may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Something that would not have been common knowledge at the time and was defined only as shell shock. Ernie’s youth may also be significant as by having Ernie’s character so young (about nineteen) Aumonier may be highlighting the fact that many of the soldiers who fought during World War One were no more than boys. Boys who had not had the opportunity to grow up in a safe or protective environment due to the fact that the war was happening.
Though there is no doubting that Ernie’s family are happy to see him. For Mrs Ward the happiness is tinged with sadness due to her connection or feelings for Mrs Stelling and her sons. If anything Mrs Ward is respectful towards Mrs Stelling even though she hasn’t seen her in years. This respect being shown by the fact that Mrs Ward visits Mr Stelling’s grave. Something that was not expected of her but which shows how decent a person Mrs Ward is. She knows that the war has torn families apart and though she herself has been lucky. She knows that Mrs Stelling might not have been. It is also possible that Aumonier is suggesting that when it comes to war there are no real winners. Both sides suffer with families on both sides having to grieve the loss of loved ones. It is only by a stroke of good fortune that Ernie met up with Martin and they were able to escape. If it was not for Martin Ernie would still be in prison or possibly worse he might have been killed.
There is also no doubting that Mrs Ward has struggled while Ernie was at war and while he was missing. Though life carried on for some it did not do so for Mrs Ward. Her mind was full of hope but at times she felt as though she could not endure the pain she was feeling. If anything Mrs Ward may not have seen the sense in the war with her only concern being Ernie’s safe return. In many ways Mrs Ward would have been no different to other mothers who had sons fighting in the war. Their primary concern was not the war in itself but making sure that their sons made it home alive. It was only then that the stress and anxiety felt by the mothers (and other family members) would be alleviated. Knowing that they had their sons safely back at home with them. Which may be the point that Aumonier is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that with war not only are sons or soldiers affected but entire families are too. Often a mother, father, brother or sister’s lives are permanently changed by the effects of war. Something that Mrs Ward is only too well aware of when she thinks of how much Ernie liked Mrs Stelling’s pudding.