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Even The Winners Are Losers: "Generals Die In Bed" By Charles Yale Harrison

1066 words - 4 pages

“We are being eaten alive by lice. We cannot sleep…” (p. 28), “I begin to sob” (125), “I’m dying-God-and I’m glad” (264). Does this sound like a soldier who “won” the war? Even though their side may have won, the narrator and all his friends were definitely victims of the war in Generals Die in Bed, by Charles Yale Harrison. The reader learns that the soldiers were not fighting solely, or even mainly, against the Germans. You also learn that during the war, soldiers can be turned into “insane” and “reckless” killing machines who lose their humanity, and lastly you find out that these men may fall victim to the painful memories that they have to carry with them for the rest of their life.The soldiers in this book, and in any war, have many more things to worry about than the actual human enemy they are fighting. “We have learned who our enemies are-the lice, some of our officers and Death”(43). The men are continually trying to fight off the lice that eat at them night and day. Fry even tries to “iron the lice out of (their) clothes” (45), using a hot iron, but when the question of, “what about the straw?...its alive”(45) is brought up, they realize that although they seemed to have won, they have indeed lost the battle to the lice. In terms of the officers and generals, the common soldiers basically have no chance. They can say all they want, like Brown who says, “I’ll kill the bastard…I’ll plug the son of a bitch between the shoulder blades” (38), when speaking of his officer Clark, but in the end the officers always end up on top. In this particular situation, all Brown gets out of it is two hours of pack-drill; (this is where the soldiers are put in full uniform and equipment and made to jog in line, in this case for two hours straight.) Finally, in terms of their fight against death, many soldiers lose this battle as well. Although the narrator keeps his life, all of his friends, Cleary, Fry, Brown, Broadbent, Anderson, and Renaud, lose the battle to death, and many of them lose this battle in a very painful way. Some people may say that they wanted to die for their country, but I disagree. The truth is, nearly all the men wish they hadn’t been there at all. One man even says, while arguing with Broadbent, “If we had any bloody brains we wouldn’t be here in the first place”(236). Aside from these three main things, the soldiers also had to fight against starvation due to lack of rations, crowded trenches, and of course, they had to fight from losing their humanity.Losing your humanity is a factor that can victimize many soldiers. This is especially prevalent when it comes to “shock troops”, troops who are to lead the attacks and penetrate the enemy’s initial walls. With these troops it is very difficult to maintain one’s humanity because if you hesitate for a second you can...

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