Friday, November 18, 2005


A questioned raised in class recently by Dr. Ogden was, "why does a novelist write novels?" I think that one of the most enjoyable aspects of The General is how easy it is to read and how it engages the reader with the story it aims to tell to such a degree that it is difficult to stop reading before coming to the end.
I would argue that a novelist writes novels to express his beliefs about certain events and people, but also to encourage his audience to engage in thought that they might not otherwise do, even if it is different from the novelist's. Forester has mastered the art of storytelling to a degree that his characters are believable and actually evoke emotion from the readers, rather than passive apathy or indifference, which in my opinion is the worst response an author could recieve from his reader. Although many readers may hate Curzon's actions, it is the fact that Forester has managed to tell his story which such an eye for detail as to his character that the audience actually feels something towards him and his actions. Curzon in a sense becomes a real person for which the audience can either relate to, or at least recognize as having characteristics that are understandable.
I would argue that Forester wrote The General as a warning to other soliders and Generals to show them how the mistakes made by the half-fictional Curzon (as well as by much of the participants in the war) must be prevented from being made in the future in order to avoid another Great War. Forester tells us Curzon's story in such an enthralling and mesmerizing manner that it is not difficult to get absorbed and lost within it. He manages to write in a manner that not only channels elite storytelling, but is able to reach and speak effectively to the lower classes, which can be seen as one of the reasons his novel was met with such widespread success.
As Merrill L. Bartlett mentions in the introduction of the novel, "Forester was troubled by British indifference to what was happening in Europe. The General was meant to remind the British of just what did happen and that it could occur again" (Bartlett vi). One can therefore appreciate Forester's sincere efforts of translating this message into a novel for a widespread audience in the hopes that they may learn from the mistakes of the past in the hope that it would not be repeated in the future. I believe this was Forester's goal in the authorship of this novel.


Blogger Lisa Moxon said...

I think that we have to be careful when making statements about authorial intention, but I do agree with many of your points, Veronika. I too saw many statements of causality in reading The General, in terms of why the war happened as it did (in particular, the condemnation of leadership comes to mind: "[Curzon] had something very definite to say, and no man with that advantage can speak without point. He briefly described what he thought must be considered essentials for the next battle. More men. More guns. More ammunition. More artillery preparation. More energy," p. 194).

I also agree that Forester had a gift for storytelling. Pages 41-43 come to mind, as the Brigade Major plans the battle and Curzon fights in WWI for the first time. It is a great example of riveting and moving action, and Forester's use of language and sentence structure contributes as much to that active storytelling as it does to the "literary value" of the text.

Monday, December 05, 2005 9:56:00 PM  

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