Casualties of War by Martha Anne Toll Article Review

In Casualties of War, 15 years before, the author’s parents decided to end their lives together. Her parents lived in England, and they were Holocaust refugees from Czechoslovakia. They always claimed it was up to them to decide when it would be the time to pass away. In 2000 the author’s mother got seriously sick, and she made a decision with her husband to end their lives. The author regrets she could not be with her parents during the last moments of their lives, which Is really sad.

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The author understands the topic and the sufferings her parents had to go through during the Holocaust times. She is also willing to have ‘some control’ over her death, but her parents’ death made her look at suicide differently. They were her closest people, and she would have preferred to spend the last hours of their life with them. Now she questions herself why they did not want her to be with them, which she is one of the family. They may not have even cared. These are the facts that show her that suicides might look selfish since the people committing them tend not to take into account the feelings of their children or other relatives. The author cannot avoid being biased in writing her family story. She justifies his parents because they have suffered a lot in their lives and had the right to end their lives in the way they did.

In order to provide the readers with sufficient reasoning, the author briefly retells the life stories of her parents. This is done to show their thorny life paths and make the readers understand why they have made such a difficult decision with surprising ease. Furthermore, when the author is explaining her dissatisfaction with their decision, she refers to the examples of how many of her friends have seen their parents dying in hospital. These examples create a bright comparison as to what effects ordinary passing away has on the closest people compared to suicide.

The author seems to deliberately not elaborate on the fact that only her mother was sick, but her father was completely healthy proven by the autopsy results. She does not differentiate between her mother’s and her father’s reasons for ending her life. Of course, her father would have felt bad living without his wife, but what about the daughter? It seems strange that there was no room for thoughts like this.

Since this is a personal story, it is supposed to be highly biased. The author writes about her parents, which is interesting, based on the stories she heard from them, and there is no way one can verify if the stories are true or not.

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 The main argument of the article seems to be hidden behind the following words: “They had made it clear for as long as I can remember that, because of the deaths of all four of their parents in the Holocaust, their lives were their own, to continue or end as they saw fit and whenever they saw fit”. This sentence effectively summarizes the core of the article and justifies the actions of the author’s parents.

 The author does not use logos because the issues of ethics and morality cannot be explained using logical assumptions. The author heavily uses pathos to prove that her parents’ decision was an ethical one. She describes awful scenes of their childhood and the destiny of their parents, who all died during the Holocaust. Creating this emotional atmosphere makes it much easier to state that her parents did have the right to do that.

The implications of the author’s argument are as follows: in certain cases, it might be justifiable for people to end their life deliberately, but they should not forget about those who love and care about them because it will be difficult for them to live further with the thought that they have not been there when the death came.

It was impossible to find reputable sources on this topic since it is highly controversial, and there is no unified approach among scholars as to how to answer the question of whether a self-controlled termination of life is justifiable under certain conditions.

In conclusion, the article under consideration is the author’s personal story and, therefore, cannot be examined against any theories of suicide, etc. What I found in this article is that the author did her best to provide the readers with the emotional background through pathos in order to reveal all the bad things that happened in her parent’s life and, according to her, predetermined their choice. While the author expresses her will to have some sort of control over her death, the death of her parents makes her more cautious in this regard. She feels having been deprived of a natural necessity – spending the last minutes of her parents’ life with them. On the contrary, she receives a call from a doctor stating that her parents have committed suicide. The author deems this action unfair towards her, notwithstanding that she knows well why her parents have made such a decision. This article is interesting, and the author provides us with much information.


Works Cited

Altman A. Casualties of War. The New York Times, November 7, 2015. Retrieved from:

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