Sunday, October 29, 2017
From here to eternity
What a novel! I'm awestruck.
It's a work of genius by the hands of someone who had the sense of turning this into a barrier-free work of art, where the army is being portrayed when there are no fires to fight.
James Jones used it as a metaphor for life, and he chose two very different characters, able to muster up the same compassion and attachment for their lives, who seem eternally stuck in a cycle to make or break it. Their story takes place at Schofield army base in Hawaii, in the months before that devastating attack.
Prewitt, a soldier at heart, a soldier who loves the army and being part of it, albeit somewhat naive of the inner workings of this said institution. He is introduced from the very beginning, where he has made a decision to leave what he loves doing behind, which is playing the horn, for it has led to the mistaken believe that he shouldn't be doing what he loves for fear is softens him. To counter this affection for playing music, he asks for a transfer to Company G, one where he won't be able to steer under the radar, because Prewitt is a ideal candidate to participate in the boxing matches they hold. They are not considering Prewitt not willing to box anymore after a unfortunate accident and see this as the wrong attitude towards the army and the other soldiers. This slowly leads to an apotheosis Prewitt could've never foreseen.
Not long after Prewitt's introduction, we get to meet Warden, the sergeant of Company G, when he is waiting for Prewitt's arrival. He's pissed, continually, and even knowing Prewitt from an earlier life, doesn't make his soften. Not that he's an all-round evil son of a bitch, Warden is actually the exemplary model of a man who's intelligent enough to see what's wrong around him but doesn't have to means to change anything about it, without the risk of changing himself. Unlike Prewitt, Warden has lost the naivety of a good soldier, but not the integrity which makes his life a struggle against the cowardice, ignorance and immorality of his superiors.
Prewitt and Warden sometimes collide, often with a lot of ruckus, but also with an almost imperceptible tenderness hidden underneath. Their shared past and Prewitt's blind eye to the inevitable, stirs up a kind of fatherly urge in Warden to protect him, against which the latter rebels unpredictably and cynically.
Beside this already flammable story line, a good novel would be emptier if it hadn't the needed love interests included. Both Prewitt and Warden have their share of bliss and heart break.
Prewitt, which his childish sense of the world and approachable morals, falls in love with a hooker, named Lorene, who in turn falls for him. Their love affair is limited because Lorene is certain she would never marry a soldier and keeps on working while they are together. Prewitt ignores his own jealous feelings and the upkeep that might have made him feel emasculated once. Only when he is forced away from her and asks Warden to inform her, he feels an incomprehensible fear that Warden and Lorene might become lovers. For some reasons this idea hurts him more than all the customers Lorene still receives.
Warden on his hand falls for the wife of his Officer and maybe trying to crash and burn quickly he comes onto her in a quite straightforward way. Their love affair begins with no expectations, only a quiet determination in the background, for both of them have ulterior motives of being with each other. They do fall in love, but in contrast of Prewitt and Lorene, their loves is too much to bear and they turn themselves into caricatures of a love they never wanted.
Heartbreak, desolation, helplessness are only a couple of ways to sum up the layers hidden in this novel, which everyone should at least read once. Despite the vast volume of pages, Jones turned this into well accessible work of fiction, touching themes that are as far from fiction as you and me.
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