- In chapter one, Sontag writes on Virginia Woolf and her efforts to end wars in the 1930s. Woolf speaks about how war is a man’s game, and that the gender of the killing machine is male. She displays photographs to the lawyer she is talking with, photographs of mangled bodies, torn buildings, and all the visual effects of war. Sontag brings up another account of Ernst Friedrich and his book of pictures showing little boys playing and ending with a military cemetery. The whole point of this chapter is to show how war needs to be visualized to feel real to those not directly impacted by the horrors that come with war.
The brutal effects of war, including dismembered bodies and ruins of societies, are hard to associate with for the average person and needs a visual connection for these people to understand the pain and the anti-war movement.
2. The main point that Sontag is making here in chapter six is our human desire to witness morbid events, even if we don’t always want to. It is in our nature to look at a car crash not only out of curiosity, but also out of hope of what we might see. We have a small degree of delight when we see the pain of others. This is why we read about fires and murders, because we “love mischief.” This is also because when we feel safe we feel indifferent about the state of others. We feel sympathy, but that does nothing once we turn our attention to something more important.
Humans are very contradictory to their own wants in the sense that we don’t want to see something but look anyway because our nature overcomes us, or that when we do witness something bad that we feel empathy and then fail to attempt any productive action.
3. The eighth chapter of Regarding the Pain of Others speaks of the distinct difference in seeing and experiencing. It is not a flaw that when we see a gruesome picture we do not have the intense reaction one might think. Whether a picture or in real life, to just see an event causes a distance. There is a physical distance between one and this said event. Sight is also effortless, and we choose what we see by turning our heads or closing our eyes, but we do not have the choice of what we hear. This is why sight is not always as traumatic as our other senses in a horrific event.
Our sight is the most valuable and most used sense as humans which is often why we don’t have as much emotion drawn out from just seeing an event; we must use other senses to truly feel it.