September 12, 2008

Book Review - The General

This classic novel by C.S. Forester depicts life as an officer within the British Army between the World Wars. Although this is a work of fiction, the cultural setting is undeniably based on the history and traditions of the British colonial military. Many literary and historical scholars also assert that the main character, Herbert Curzon, is a composite of Field Marshall John French and Field Marshall Douglas Haig. Because of its strong basis in fact, this novel has been required reading for military officers and students from the time of Hitler to the present. While Forester writes critically about the way the British carried out World War I, he frames the descisions as coming from the often insular social context and rigid hierarchy of the British colonial military system. He explains that personal loyalties most often were tied to a regiment rather that to the nation or the army as a whole and where an officers rank and social station were tied not only to his intellectual abilities, but also to his family's wealth and social standing. With the swelling of the ranks and devastating losses in World War I, this complicated structure was quickly replaced by soldiers motivated to defend their country, many of whom did not plan on military careers. This is a story not only about military cultures or the power of a strong individual, but also about social and cultural change and how it is often brought about by war.

This book can be found in HECSA Library:

The General
C.S. Forester
PR 6011 .O56 G4 1982