An Introduction to Generals Die in Bed.

327 Words2 Pages
First thoughts Generals Die in Bed is a powerful novel, which vividly conveys the experience of the common soldier in World War One. Its title, part joke, part outrage, signals the author’s intention as polemical. The author creates a barren landscape, destroyed by war, and the characters inhabit this wasteland. The characters are seen fleetingly, in particular moments only, and we divine what they are feeling mostly through their actions. The story is punctuated by vivid descriptions of trench warfare, description of rest periods, and of the discomfort and danger of life in the trenches. Generals Die in Bed is told by a soldier with no name, and the reader sees the war through his eyes. Charles Harrison creates a character who sometimes sees like a journalist and sometimes sees like a poet. The soldier’s vision extends beyond his immediate experience to register and respond to the whole extent of human suffering that the war creates. Like Wilfred Owen, in Dulce et decorum est, Harrison’s intention is to awaken his readers to the new reality of War. The opening chapter portrays the new soldiers leaving Montreal for the first time as lost, unhappy and childish in their attempts to blot out their fears of what is to come. The parade to the train station is described in a series of fragmented images, in an atmosphere of bewilderment and degradation. From then on, the novel takes on the grinding, disciplined structure of military action followed by periods of rest. This structure helps to convey the unremitting sameness of war, and to enact the soldiers’ sense of unrelenting danger and boredom. The soldier is able to see and respond to the suffering around him. He can see the humanity of the enemy, and remember and feel anger at the slaughter of the surrendering Germans. Like Owen he is a witness to the outrage. The soldier sees both suffering and cause and
Open Document