Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Influence of the Boer War

In relation to my previous blog concerning the history of the Boer War, I find it necessary to use this information in order to gain a better understanding of why Forester chose to begin The General not with the First World War, but with the Boer War, and how this had an influence on Curzon. As mentioned in my last post, the Boer War was primarily between the Afrikaners and the Boers, with the British using primarily outdated and more traditional weapons (such as rifles and horses). One only has to look at the final scenes of the novel to understand how exactly the Boer War had an influence on Curzon, as he jumps on his horse and gallops into direct gunfire from the opposition, a seemingly ridiculous action but somewhat justified if we consider that not too long ago, in the Boer War, such an act would be seen as normal.
Beginning the novel with the Boer War, in my opinion, seems for Forester to show the audience how war was fought just before the First World War in order to directly contrast it with the new developments and methods of fighting as developed in the Great War. Had Forester begun the novel with Curzon heading off to fight in the Great War, one would not be fully impacted by the degree of change that occured between the two wars and that occured during the course of World War I.
To show us, the reader, the mentality of the soliders, and Curzon, in the Boer War allows us to understand better Curzon's mentality in the Great War. Although many of us feel inclined to laugh at Curzon as he grabbed his sword and galloped into battle, by remembering that not too many years prior doing so, against similiar opponents however, this was the way fight. Forester therefore manages to illustrate just how drastically everything changed once the Great War began, from warefare, weapons and military tactics to the thoughts and actions of everyone involved and unescapably affected by it.
(Picture courtesy of this website that has many nice pictures of the Great War).


Blogger Candice said...

I think that it is important to recognize Curzon's actions as not being intentionally destructive. We have talked a lot about why men like him were such an awful influence on the state of the war, but I am glad that you pointed out that Forester gives the reader an opportunity to understand his actions and reflect on them. As mentioned in class, he is not an evil, monstrous human being, but rather a creature of habit. I think that he does have a desire to fight the war the best way that he knows how, which allows him to reveal his bravery and commitment to his job. I would go as far as to say that Forester even allows the reader to pity such a man.

Monday, December 05, 2005 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Moxon said...

It's interesting how you brought up pity, Candice. Upon further reflection, I think that I felt some pity towards him. The question becomes... can The General be read as a tragedy? Remember how Aristotle thought the two marks of tragedy were the responses of fear and pity? I think we can see a certain amount of both in the novel, though I wouldn't go as far as to suggest that they are the sole focus.

Monday, December 05, 2005 11:30:00 PM  

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