Generals Die in Bed

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Through the soldiers’ experiences, the narrator shows only the dark side of human nature. Discuss.

Generals die in Bed by Charles Yale Harrison is a novel where a young Canadian soldier tells of his first hand account of the harsh and inhumane conditions in the trenches on the Western Front during World War 1. Through his observations and experiences the Narrator shows the effects of war on ordinary people and how they manage in extraordinarily horrific situations. Even though the brutal nature of the war is often reflected in the violent way that combatants act towards one another there are also moments when compassion and mercy is shown. The novel demonstrates that in extreme situations both the dark and the good side of human nature are revealed. The novel depicts how the war brings out disrespect and selfishness in the soldiers. Just like their constant companions the lice and the rats, the soldiers in the trench adapt to the hell that they find themselves trapped in – doing whatever it takes to survive. They even fight each other over food ‘at each others throats like hungry, snarling animals’. As the novel and the war progresses so does the inhumane side of the soldiers who become increasing more detached from killing, unconcerned with the death of friends. The soldiers are conditioned, hardened up and desensitised with self preservation becoming a key motivator. This is shown as the soldiers plunder the city of Arras, the allies' town and vandalize houses with no consideration of the local people who will come back to a raided and shelled town. As they ransack the town ‘chewing food while pillaging,’ stealing and destroying people’s possessions, self satisfaction is their only concern. The soldiers become feral and even rebel against and shoot at their own Military Police who are trying to restore order. By these merciless and selfish acts the dark side of the soldiers’ nature is revealed. Through the experiences of the combatants the reader is shown...
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