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Scott Anderson’s novel Triage depicts the journey of a war photographer back from the insanities of post traumatic stress. The story revolves around Mark Walsh, who after returning from Kurdistan, spirals into a severe case of survivor guilt and post traumatic stress. Elena’s grandfather, Joaquin Morales, guides Mark back to recovery with a string of bizarre techniques. Joaquin initially allows Mark to confront his memories by asking him to retell his war stories. Joaquin then utilizes the land and addresses Mark’s spatial awareness in order for Mark to visualize the event at Kurdistan. Finally, Joaquin reveals the secrets of Carlos Perez to finally allow Mark to accept reality. It is through these techniques that Mark is able to “find his own way back to god”.
Joaquin assisted Mark to unblock his memories by asking him to recount a series of war stories from his personal experiences as a war photographer. Mark retells the event of encountering an innocent Lebanese boy in Beirut, who “sighed” and ultimately was shot dead. Joaquin stated “You are looking for others for forgiveness, but that is something no person can give you”. Joaquin implied that Mark’s attitude towards forgiveness was inappropriate, and that he needed to focus on absolving the guilt of causing the deaths of his best friends. Mark’s final war story of the cadets in Sri Lanka enforced Joaquin’s belief of Mark carrying “the guilt of not having done enough to help or save others”. Joaquin thus reiterates the fact that Mark has to learn that there is “no one to share the burden”. Furthermore, Joaquin compelled Mark to confront his memories to believe that he would not have saved Colin; that his death was inevitable. Essentially, Mark’s treatment can be symbolized through the games of chess; Joaquin adapts to the experiences and circumstances of Mark, and accordingly provides him with solutions to overcome his personal fears.
Joaquin’s expert use of the land and Mark’s spatial awareness encourages the latter to accept reality. Realizing that Mark was making no progress towards recovery, Joaquin decided to undertake a different tactic; he insisted Mark to visualize the event in Kurdistan and to recall the moment when Colin had gone missing by drawing a map on the wall. Joaquin asks Mark “and where was Colin?
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Joaquin eventually reveals his despicable secret of killing Carlos Perez in order to allow Mark to come to terms with reality. Mark assigns himself the task of finding Carlos Perez, which in truth was an attempt to search for his own conscience and finding “his way back from the dead”. Noting the futility of Mark’s search for Carlos Perez, Joaquin takes both Mark and Elena to the area where the missing man had last been. Once there, Joaquin exposes his own sinister secret of “purifying” Perez in order for Mark to “come back from the dead”. Mark had been searching for Perez for a long time, and when he learned that Perez was “purified from history”, Mark felt the agony of losing a friend for the very first time. Mark then finally realizes that, since Perez was gone, there existed the possibility that his best friend was no longer alive - which allows Mark to break out of his mental shell and reveal the full event in Kurdistan. Joaquin’s final words “you did everything you could. It’s over now”; signifies that Mark had ultimately found “his own way back to god”. It is then that Mark truly accepts that saving Colin was impossible and forgives himself, thus becoming devoid of his post traumatic stress. Summarily, Joaquin empathetically revealed his sinister secret to encourage Mark to feel the sense of remorse that he needed to recover.
As Mark returned from Kurdistan, he was faced with the hardship of acknowledging the death of his best friend Colin. Joaquin played a vital role in Mark’s recovery as he incorporated many subtle techniques to allow Mark to accept the death of Colin. Joaquin effectively utilized the land, the ongoing themes in Mark’s war stories, and disclosed the secret of Carlos Perez in order for Mark to diminish his remorse for himself. Ultimately, it was through the assistance of the “scholar of the human spirit” that Mark was able to find his way back from the dead and continue to live.