One hundred years ago, most of European countries were still involved in the First World War. Vera Brittain had already lost most of her friends because of it, including her fiancé Roland Leighton; her brother was still alive, but he would eventually die in June 1918 during the Battle of the Piave River. After having worked as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse in England, Malta and France, she decided to write about her story and how she experienced the war; her work has been published in 1933, titled Testament of Youth. Although she became from a middle-class family, the writer distinguished herself because she was rebel and refused to take on women’s traditional role of homemaker. She struggled for recognition as an independent person and as a woman with the right to have further education and career.
Nowadays people can still learn from her: she is the embodiment of perseverance because she always fought for what she believed in, from the pacifism to the feminism. Brittain can teach to people living in this century that women do not necessarily have to conform to the standards imposed by the current society; they have to be free to be what they want to, to follow their dreams and to speak that up if needed. There will always be someone who tries to mess things up, but this does not have to be a reason to fall silent.
Another main theme is pacifism. She had an important role even during the Second World War, during which she protested against the treatment of Jews in Germany and helped many of them find ways to escape. She also helped people made homeless by booming and sent food relief to starving civilians in occupied territories. She was a troublesome person because of the revolutionary ideas she had and that’s why the British government decided to blacklist her and to restrict her movements. Her choice to be a pacifist and an activist is caused by the experiences she had in her life and the sorrow she endured.
She also can teach us the value of true friendship and love. People often do not realize their importance when everything is alright, but they suddenly grasp it when they lose someone they really care for and most of the times it can be too late.
I think that I can learn from her about striving for what I want to be in the future and to get up after every defeat. I would really like to ask her how did she manage through her life to be as strong as she was and how did she dealt with the loss of Roland, her brother Edward and her friends.
Maybe she regretted having encouraged Roland and Edward to enlist, so I would definitely ask her how did she accept what happened many months later.