James Jones - The Thin Red Line
Bell lay with his face against the rock facing Witt. Witt lay looking back. Quietly in the insect-humming heat they lay and looked at each other. Bell was thinking that Witt had come through it all all right. Like himself. What power was it which decided one man should be hit, be killed, instead of another man? So Bugger’s little feeling attack was over. If this was a movie, this would be the end of the show and something would be decided. In a movie or a novel they would dramatise and build to the climax of the attack. When the attack came in the film or novel, it would be satisfying. It would decide something. It would have a semblance of meaning and a semblance of an emotion. And immediately after, it would be over. The audience could go home and think about the semblance of the meaning and feel the semblance of the emotion. Art, Bell decided, creative art—was shit.
Beside him Witt, who was apparently not bothered by any of these problems, raised himself to his knees and cautiously stuck his head up over the ledge. Bell went on with his thinking.
Here there was no semblance of meaning. And the emotions were so many and so mixed up that they were indecipherable, could not be untangled. Nothing had been decided, nobody had learned anything. But most important of all, nothing had ended. Even if they had captured this whole ridge, nothing would have ended. Because tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that, they would be called upon to do the same thing again—maybe under even worse circumstances. The concept was so overpowering, so numbing, that it shook Bell. Island after island, hill after hill, beachhead after beachhead, year after year. It staggered him.