In Helen MacInnes’ Assignment In Brittany, the characters express the ideology of the Allies and Axis in their actions, heightening the importance of symbolic representation. Understanding the historical context of this novel furthers the significance of each character, and encompasses the emotions of a period of intense suffering. Hearne’s personality and actions represent wartime Britain, a nation under siege but resilient and unwilling to surrender. Perseverance serves Hearne well as the plot unfolds, producing a successful mission and an escape from Nazi occupied Brittany. Anne represents French resistance through her daily routines and a developing mature intelligence that proved beneficial to French resistors. Elise the German collaborator, illustrates the flaws of the Nazi attitude towards the occupation of Europe. Her ruthless personality leads to manipulation and betrayal of Corlay and France for personal gain, as well as her arrogant demise. Analysis of the characters reveals their symbolic political importance, which provides greater insight into psyche of the nations fighting for survival.
The historical context of Assignment in Brittany is vital to uncovering meanings within the novel. It was written in 1942, when conquest of Britain by the powerful German armies was a distinct possibility. The book uses “contemporary events and actual personages”(Bedell 119) to capture the vulnerability of this time. Including the evacuation of Dunkirk, where Corlay was captured, and the German occupation of Northern France. Hearne, Anne, and Elise’s response to these events reveal Britain’s courage, France’s conformity, and Germany’s barbarism.
Hearne undertakes an unbeatable moral backbone illustrating the way Winston Churchill and the British army viewed the war - a battle of attrition where the morally unconquerable would eventually triumph. As Hearne is captured, interrogated and his cover busted, he “wasn’t going to admit he was hopeless. It was just as easy for a strong swimmer to commit suicide by drowning… his subconscious struggled to keep him afloat” (AB 325). His subconscious determination kept him afloat during this ordeal. The British never give up motto saved Hearne from defeat and certain death and eventually helped the British and their allies turn the tide of war against Germany and the axis powers. During the Battle of Britain, Winston Churchill was under intense pressure from the British population to sign a peace agreement with the Nazis. He responded, “those which surrendered tamely were finished”(BBC.UK). Hearne and the British Prime Minister are similar when presented a “hopeless situation”, they persevere and end up victorious. Hearne’s British mentality aids in successfully completing his mission and to flee Nazi occupied France with his love, the French resistor Anne.
Anne sheds her old obedience and...