Hunger and its Relationship to War
"... munch on slabs of chocolate and stale biscuits. We have slept like logs through the evening meal-all except Tosh, who never misses a food-call on principle. It is her turn to make the Bovril. We gloatingly watch her light the little spirit lamp. We are hungry; but we are used to the hunger. We are always hungry in varying degrees-hungry, starving, or ravenous." (9-10)
Smith uses this passage in the very first pages to set the tone for the entire novel. Not only does she create a theme for her novel, but describes a theme of the entire war. The men on the fronts, as well as the women helping them are "always hungry." Nellie, a V.A.D., clings to life as she performs her duties on an empty stomach and with a lack of sleep. Her hunger has a relationship to her views on war, opposing it, contrasting those of her mother and her aunt.
As Nellie and the other ambulance drivers work they need the nutrition to be able to perform their duties. They are then forced to work on empty stomachs. Food is a necessity for living, and without it, it takes over all thoughts, it becomes a main priority. All that the women can think about is there next meal or if they will have anything after their return from their convoys, all other tasks take second place behind food. Fatigue then sets in and accomplishing anything becomes almost impossible. Just as the starvation and exhaustion has taken over the young women, so has the war taken over the lives of an entire generation. Nellie being part of the war effort has her opinion about it. In parallel to her hunger, the more fatigued and ravaged...