Friday, November 11, 2005

Is Patriotism the Problem?

As discussed in a recent class, one cannot read The General without acknowledging the essential question Forester raises: Is patriotism the problem?
Patriotism is a strong issue in The General, and it clearly displays how prominent the belief in one's country, especially Britain, was in the lead up to the Great War. There were millions of volunteers for the army before the war even began, and those that did not enlist in the army were seen as cowards, traitors and even undeserving to live in Britain. As Caitlin mentioned in her presentation, forms of propaganda evoking feelings of guilt- ('What did YOU do in the war, daddy?') rode on the wave of patriotism that permeated England at this time. Forester very cleverly questions this patriotism and leads the reader to question whether this was in fact, one of the reasons why the war continued as long and as brutally horrific as it did. Although my presentation in class is on nationalism in the form of aspirations for national independence in a country under foreign domination, one must understand that nationalism in terms of focusing on the interest and goals of one's country was extremely significant at this time. For Curzon, there was no greater obligation, honour or duty than to fight for one's country, and this mentality, prevelant amongst many of the generals and soldiers fighting in the war, is arguably what made the war so much more prolonged and miserable. As Wilfred Owen beautifully illustrated in "Dolce Et Decorm Est," fighting for one's country is not as great as it idealistically seems, as "obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud/ Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-/ My friend, you would not tell with such high zest/ To children ardent for some desperate glory,/ The old Lie: Dolece et Decorum est/ Pro patria mori."

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