“We light cigarettes against orders and cup our hands around them to hide the glow. We sit thinking. Fry stands motionless with his steel helmet shoved down almost over his eyes. He leans against the parapet motionless. There is a quiet dignity about his posture. I remember what we were told at the base about falling asleep on sentry duty. I nudge his leg. He grunts.”
Generals Die in Bed is a anti-war novella written by a Canadian author. Based on a true story, this novella showcases the reality of being in the trenches of WW I. The passage I have selected above shows how defiant one can be in a time of stress and emotional trauma as well as how authority can set seemingly unfair rules. This passage can easily display themes of rebellious and defiance towards authority as it also creates a mood of anxiety and gloom through a first person perspective.
Defiance is a bold resistance to authority and in this case the defiance of the soldiers is a perfect example of being rebellious to higher authority. While the soldiers work and live in the trenches they have a cloud hanging over them of not knowing what is to come. This is often an intimidating feeling and when one is intimidated they will find ways to assert their own importance which is often through rebellious acts. Intimidation often goes hand in hand with fear and in this novella and passage fear is a present theme.
A theme is a unifying or dominant idea and clearly portrayed in this novella a few obvious themes may include defiance, rebellion, fear of the unknown and fear of death. This passage more so focuses on the theme of defiance; as they claimed “We light cigarettes against orders..”. There is a higher authority that has set rules for the soldiers. This idea of the 2 soldiers disobeying the rules is a very easily targeted example of rebellion or a rebellious act. As well as the soldier spoke of not falling asleep on sentry duty and when he noticed the second soldier Fry falling victim he was quick to make sure he was awake and alert. To me this showed a fear of consequence which would follow up of breaking a rule.
A mood and feeling of anxiety comes from an overwhelming responsibility to over see the well being of your troops as they rest. This explains the importance of staying awake on sentry duty. This feeling and notion of death could potentially be around the corner will leave one full of stress and anxiety. The gloominess comes from being surrounded by death and sadness amoungst your fellow troops and the enemy. Its an experience that most people will never understand first hand but to those who volunteer or are voluntold it can often lead to mild or major trauma.
The passage I have chosen above displays the true horrors of being in war but can only be recognized by those who looker for the deeper meaning of the passage. The words written by the author capture the essence of how war truly changes a man; defiance, disobedience, new and overpowering fears as well as emotional changes. For those who can realize and understand the
Courtney from Study Moose
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