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The Sand Pebbles by Richard McKenna

Categories Book Review, Literature, War

Essay, Pages 4 (891 words)



Essay, Pages 4 (891 words)

The Sand Pebbles was written in 1962 by Richard McKenna and it’s about Yangtze River gunboat in 1926 and McKenna had served aboard in 1936. The novel was later acted as film in 1966 that starred Steve McQueen, Candice Bergen, Mako, Richard Crena and Richard Attenborough. The movie was directed Robert Wise after Anderson adapted the novel from McKenna.

The novel depicts colonialism and racism of that time in both small scales, by showing the interaction between the Chinese coolies that operated boats and American sailors and the Chinese bar girls at the shore and large scale by showing how the gunboat diplomacy was used in dominating the vulnerable china thus reducing it to a virtual anarchy by political factions and feuding warlords.

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The Sand of Pebbles gives a reflection on the life of American navy at a time when the china sailors were in poor light. The native Chinese mocked them, while the superior officers treated with pride and were termed as an embarrassment by their people whom they were meant to protect.

The military is not regarded as a career but a way to escape and even as a punishment. Given their universal lack of sense and respect, it’s not surprising that the sand pebbles have comfort in their menial tasks; this makes the pebbles to feel superior to some people.

Jake arrives and has self respect and maintains the engine without seeking the imported help and prefers the company of his engine because they deliver their best and have no emotions like the human beings that bring about conflict between them.

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Care, respect and his affection towards the engine display a fragile and gentle side towards Jake which leads to friendship with Po-Han whose is one of the coolies because of his understanding for the engine.

Jake is uncomplicated, straight forward, reasonable, honest and treats others with high respect but trouble begins when he, together with other Sand Pebbles conflict among themselves because of various features of the world affairs and those of the society.

The destiny of horrible sailors that has no likely hood to inspire interest with less identification makes The Sand Pebbles a great novel. More so it handles themes like racism, social injustice, love, friendship, military intervention, brutality of war, among other themes.

Political intervention and military is the focal point of the novel. San Pablo’s mission is to protect the interests of the Americans in the foreign country and using its military power if need be. This clearly displays the colonial approach and the enthusiasm of taking advantages of the obvious division in a developing nation. This is not very different from the today’s world where by the multinational companies play some roles in politics as nations defend each other because of the oil interests.

The novel touches the lives of everyone, mostly the ones used as instruments for political plans and ambitions and the decreasing differences between the military and politics. Jake finds some features in the military and discipline too hard to stomach and within his ego feels that there is some thing he can contribute and henceforth he will be valued. Currently most of consider how to make our lives better by having better job but rarely do we think broadly about thing like the politics yet Jake in 1926 could think about nationalism and patriotism

The missionaries and Shirley in china forego their nationality so that they can be accepted and win the respect and trust of the Chinese revolutionaries and volunteer to assist on development and education instead of defending their countries blindly. When Jake is invited he sees this invitation as a means of simplifying his life because he has undergone a lot of suffering in the system. Jake begins a process of personal development and growth that curiously reflect the kind of revolution that took place in china

It’s a thought provoking, excellent novel where emotion keeps haunting the mind. Emotion is kind of the key to the novels success while McKenna deals with big issues and themes. The reality where by the insignificant individual are affected by the social strife and politics is shared to every one who reads the novel. It is a human anti war novel with a lot of sympathy and mind provoking though it’s not clearly understood by some critics.

The novel touches on recurrent situation or lessons concerning identity politics and international exploitation where by instilled fear turns in to the social currency. The events and characters have critically illustrated moral slipperiness of identity and race, falseness of the political positions, the dangers that can about due to self indulgent, justifications of social righteous and finally how the moral judgment can be termed as useless once power play is a tool of encouraging violence to rise.

What the hell happened are the last words of Jake, theses cap it all, that is exploitation and violence has a means of creating crowd mentality that strips individuals and nations of discernment, of sense, of the ability to assess complexity and steering the crowds in to false and arbitrary positions despite of the existing facts and what the majority of the people feel and think. When things get to this extreme, the ruling class mentality becomes to kill or either be killed.


Richard McKenna (2000) the Sand Pebbles, Naval Institute Press, US

Cite this essay

The Sand Pebbles by Richard McKenna. (2017, Mar 22). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/re-the-sand-pebbles-by-richard-mckenna-essay

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