Happy Warriors in Arms: Aspects of Military Life in Evelyn Waugh's Put out More Flags and Sword of Honour

By Flor, Carlos Villar | WLA ; War, Literature and the Arts, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Happy Warriors in Arms: Aspects of Military Life in Evelyn Waugh's Put out More Flags and Sword of Honour


Flor, Carlos Villar, WLA ; War, Literature and the Arts


The documentary value of Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy1 has been widely acknowledged. Apart from the early, oft-quoted appraisals by Cyril Connolly-"unquestionably the finest novel to have come out of the war" (Stannard 337)- and Andrew Rutherford - "probably the greatest work of fiction to emerge from the Second World War" (113)- more recently it was described by the military historian John Keegan as "the greatest English novel of the Second World War", by Antony Beevor as one of the best five works of fiction about the Second World War, and listed by Jeffrey Archer as one of the top roman-fleuves in English, adding that it is "probably the best thing in English literature to be inspired by the second world war." Fellow Royal Marine officer John St John declared that Waugh "describes the war as I experienced it. Nothing is falsified" (55). In turn, Alex Danchev states that "Waugh's treatment of [...] regimental ideology is a miniature masterpiece of social history" (478). Certainly Waugh, who served in different units throughout the war -Royal Marines, 8 Commando, Layforce, Horse Guards, Special Service Brigade, Special Air Service, 37th British Mission in Yugoslavia- had an acute eye to dissect people, institutions and the environment he observed throughout his military career, attracted by whatever absurdities or farcical situations occurred within his view.

The perspective adopted in the trilogy is admittedly limited. Waugh wrote in the prologue to the unified edition that he "sought to give a description of the Second World War as it was seen and experienced by a single, uncharacteristic Englishman, and to show its effect on him" (Waugh 1999, xxxiv). This "uncharacteristic Englishman" is Guy Crouchback, a melancholy and passive Catholic, who, although differing from his author in many respects, views the political implications of the war in a similar vein. Indeed, his passivity serves an interpretive purpose. In the words of Munton, he is "an empty vessel into which the Second World War is poured [...]. The war enters him, and in our reading of Guy Crouchback we enter the war ourselves" (227). Waugh's last hero, Guy still shares with almost all the previous protagonists the role of ingénue through whose innocent or decent eyes a predatory world is perceived. And, as far as his approach to the general mechanics of war is concerned, what we learn from Guy is disillusion.2 Waugh believed that Britain had behaved ignominiously and had mismanaged the war effort, and his works reproduce such indignity on a smaller scale in a series of scenes of military inefficiency accompanied by presumption. Very seldom do we encounter heroism or prowess in Waugh's military: apart from a few exceptions, such as the heroic resistance of the Second Halberdier Battalion in Crete,3 the behaviour of the military all through the trilogy is characterised by inefficiency, chaos, tactlessness or cowardice.4

But Sword of Honour was not Waugh's first attempt to deal with the devastating irruption of war. Put Out More Flags was written in 1941 on his return from the Battle of Crete, a novel reportedly "dashed off to occupy a tedious voyage" (Amory 158). Although little academic criticism has been written so far on this work5 most critics agree that it prepares the way for the deeper incarnation of Waugh's views about the military and the management of war developed in Sword of Honour. This preparatory nature obviously includes a first-hand perspective of various and colourful elements of army life which will reappear in the trilog y in an expanded form. In Patey's words, "the military experiences here distributed among Alistair, Cedric and Peter [the heroes of Put Out More Flags] are all rendered again, briefly in Brideshead Revisited, at length in Sword of Honour" (Patey 198). This general perception has had little controversy among critics, but up till now no academic study has pinpointed the nature of these narrative patterns of military life that were essayed in the early novel and later developed in the trilog y. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Happy Warriors in Arms: Aspects of Military Life in Evelyn Waugh's Put out More Flags and Sword of Honour
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.