Characters : – Alexander (Alex, alec) Alicia (Alex’s Mum) Frederick (Alex’s Dad) Jerry Setting: – Early 20th Century Ireland, WW1 in France (Two settings) Summary – Part 1 * The story starts with the narrator Alexander Moore who is awaiting his death by a firing squad. * We get an indication early on in the text that the relationship with his parents is not good. * ‘My heart doesn’t bleed for her’ referring to his mother. This shows us that he did not have much love for his mother. * ‘As a child I was alone’. This indicates the incredible loneliness felt by Alex as a child. * ‘Their only meeting place was the child’.
This refers to the unhappy marriage of Alicia and Frederick. * Alicia tries constantly to control both Alex and Frederick. * Frederick wants Alex to attend school and meet other people. However his mother puts a stop to this. * Alex meets Jerry and he is happy to have a friend at last. ‘I had a friend’. * Jerry and Alex continue to spend time together. They mind the ponies and swim together. They also experience their first taste of alcohol together ‘poteen’. * ‘It was discovered’ – referring to Jerry and Alex’s friendship being discovered by Alicia. * She refers to Jerry as a ‘stupid boy’.
She forbids Alex to see Jerry anymore. She decides that she is bringing Alex to Europe to give him a cultural education. However, the real reason is that she wants to separate him from Jerry. She manipulates both her son and her husband and dismisses their opinions on any matters. * Both parents have no understanding of the basic needs of the child. Frederick agrees with Alicia about their friendship, ‘One must accept the limitations of the class into which you are born. They must be accepted’. Alex’s father is a coward but he does love his son. He is unable to express this love however. He is as Alicia says ‘an effective man’. * Alicia wants Alex to go to fight in World War 1. Frederick refers to her as an ‘absurd woman’. She wants Alex to go to war so that she can end the relationship that exists between Alex and his father, Frederick. She tells Alex that he is becoming more and more like his father each day. * Frederick tells her ‘Ponder deeply before you take away my son. No is what I say. No! ’ The idea of Alex going to war deeply distresses his father. However, Frederick is powerless to stop her as he is a coward. * He tells Alex ‘You don’t think she’s packing you off to war for serious reasons, do you? We can understand that Alicia is telling Alex to go to war because she no longer wants to carry on with the facade of her marriage. She also does not want Alex and Frederick to continue their good relationship. * She tells Alex that Frederick is not his father ‘Suppose he were not your father? ’ She knows how to manipulate Alex. Alex takes in the terrible content of what she has just said. He does not believe her at first but he is devastated when she tells him that it is indeed true. However we, as readers will never truly know if she was telling the truth. However, this revelation devastates Alex. He meets Jerry and they go for a swim ‘like old times’. * Alex tells Jerry about his mother’s revelation. Jerry tells him ‘they all say what suits them, when it suits them’. Both of these characters haves suffered at the hands of women. Jerry is enlisting in the army for ‘cash’. It is this cash that will help his family survive at home. Alex is enlisting to escape his mother and his unhappy family. They both have a negative attitude towards women because they have never experienced the love of a woman. * Alex returns home after a night of drinking with Jerry. He is leaving the following morning.
He comments on his parents that ‘They will grow old immaculately, their implacable hatred of each other hidden from the world’. * Alex informs his parents the following morning that he will be leaving. His father is shocked and clearly distressed as he is visibly shaking. ‘The condemned man did not eat a healthy breakfast’. He is cruel to his mother but deservedly so. He does not mean to be. * They try to convince Alex to stay longer however he is determined not to continue this charade of unhappiness anymore. * ‘I was conscious of a radiance coming from her, a feeling of triumph’.
Alicia has won and Alex is aware of this. * ————————————————- Alex’s father is emotional when Alex leaves, however he does not show it. He cannot say goodbye to Alex properly although he does give him a present. He insists that Alex ‘be kind to his mother’ and he does not come downstairs to say goodbye. Perhaps he is in a personal turmoil over Alex’s departure. This is the last time father and son will see each other and there is certain poignancy (sadness) about this. Summary – Part 2 * Part two of the novel begins and Alex is training to go to war.
Alex has been made an officer simply because he has come from a wealthy background. Jerry was right ‘it never entered their heads that I should be anything but an officer’. * Major Glenndinning is the man in charge of the soldiers. He refers to the men as ‘Illiterate peasants, rascals and schoolboys’. However, he intends ‘to make soldiers of them’. * Major Glendinning encourages Alex to mix with the other officers. It makes him angry that Alex is passive. * Jerry and Alex meet in secret and go riding horses. However, this friendship is frowned upon. Just like back in Ireland it is not seen as right for the two men to mix with one another. Officer Bennett shares a bunk with Alex and he also goes riding with Alex and Jerry. * Major Glendinning finds out that Alex and Jerry have been meeting in secret. Major Glendinning warns Alex ‘Make it your business to understand. Discipline must be maintained. Strict impersonal discipline… Let it be understood I will have no talking between the men and the officers’. Alex understands the Major’s position but he continues to meet Jerry in secret. * The men live in poor conditions while the war continues. The rum in the tea keeps them warm. They are filthy and conditions are bad in their base. Jerry, Bennet and Alex ride into a town near their base on a day off. It strikes Bennett straight away that this town does not seem to have been touched by the war. ‘Odd damn place. Where’s the war? ’ * The men discuss the troubles at home in Ireland between the Republicans and Home Rulers. Jerry describes himself as a Republican. * Jerry asks Major Glendinning if he can be transferred to the horse’s stables. * Jerry visits Alex is his bunk. They talk about the impending war at home in Ireland. Jerry thinks the war in Ireland will be easier as there will be no trench warfare and no front lines and no waiting. Quotes that show the horror of war: ‘I lay down and closed my eyes. The screaming, I think, continued, or maybe it was inside my head. ’ ‘One of the stretches of the wall that had collapsed had left raw to the world the remains of what had been a dozen or so French men. We packed them neatly away behind more sandbags and hoped that they wouldn’t appear in our lives again’. This shows the reality of trench warfare. * Things go from bad to worse in this novel. It is a novel of social realism. It is a fictional novel but none of the things that happen are beyond the realms of possibility. Glenndinning, Alex and a few soldiers take a trip to find a man who has been badly wounded in the war. They could hear his screaming from far away. When they reached the man Alex could tell he was badly wounded referring to ‘what was left of the man’. * Major Glendinning shows himself to be a compassionate man. He risks his life to stop another man’s suffering. * ‘There was a small clink of metal on metal’. This refers to the moment when Major Glendinning killed the dying man to end his suffering. We have to have admiration for his courage to kill this man. He had to finish the murder off as no one else would.
He is efficient and precise. He cannot afford emotions. * Just as Major Glendinning kills the man Alex recites poetry. Alex’s poetry shows Alex’s imagination but Glendinning doesn’t like imaginative soldiers. He blames Alex’s attitude to life on the fact that he didn’t go to school. * Major Glendinning has become desensitised with war. He has become a man who cannot let emotion in because of what he has seen in the war. He adheres to the rules and does his duty. He has a different concept to Alex’s. His attitude towards the Irish is negative. * ‘If nothing else, Moore, if nothing else, I will make a man of you’. Jerry visits Alex and asks him to look for compassionate leave for him to find his missing father. Alex doesn’t think Major Glendinning will allow him. He doesn’t. Jerry goes anyway without the permission of the army. Upon his return he is sentenced to death. * The night of his death Alex gives him brandy. Alex shoots Jerry to save him the humiliation of being killed by a firing squad. Alex is then sentenced to death. * Without Jerry Alex has nothing to live for. He would rather be dead. The army will never understand why he killed Jerry. Jerry was the only person he every shared affection with.
Jerry saved him from the bleakness of his home. * Alex knows that his actions would inevitably lead to his own death. * This novel is a metaphorical journey of true friendship. ____________________________________________________________ _________________ Some Key Moments * The opening of the text and the end of the text. * Mother’s revelation that Frederick is not Alex’s father – becomes part of the reason Alex decides to go to war. * Letters. * Man in No man’s land – killed by Major Glendinning. * Shooting of Jerry – leads to Alex’s inevitable death. ____________________________________________________________ __________________