An Ethics Essay on the Importance of Life

In “After Experience Taught Me” by W. D Snodgrass, juxtaposition is used to present the hidden similarities and differences of soldier training and philosopher Baruch Spinoza when the situation comes down to your life.

Would you rather it be you or them if it came down to life? This is the question Snodgrass is trying to answer in this poem. There is a comparison between a religious philosopher, a drill instructor, and Snodgrass's thoughts. “After experience taught me that all the ordinary surroundings of social life and futile and vain:” and “I’m going to show you something very ugly: someday, it might save your life,” both explain the “ugly” truth about life and how objects actually have no worth in a life or death situation. Snodgrass’s diction of “futile and vain” give off a snobby attitude to space.

Another way Snodgrass explains his answer to life is through the idea that all crimes are justified if it protects your own. “Take the first two fingers of this hand; Fork them out--kind of a ‘V for Victory’--” This specific quote brings me chills because the instructor seems happy to be killing this person to save himself, almost glad about what is about to be done. It could be debated if Snodgrass uses this as the instructor intends or as a reflection on life. Back in this wartime, the forked fingers would be thought of a victory after a battle or war was won, in contrast, today the same symbol to signify peace and happiness. As a reflection on life, you must think of your knowledge not as experience but as mental and physical strength.

The final similarity I thought was significant was the last stanza. “And you, whiner, who wastes your time dawdling over the remorseless earth, what evil, what unspeakable crime have you made your life worth?” This specific quote makes the reader think and reflect on their values in life. This third voice is asking, is stress worth giving up your whole life? Requires immense physical and mental strength to kill someone.


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