From Here To Eternity
He is foul mouthed and violent, rigidly proud and suspicious and difficult to befriend. He is even showing signs of racism and homophobia, again symptoms of the society he is living in. Yet Prewitt does open up to a few select people, like the fellows he is jamming with in the evenings on guitars, singing interminable blues sessions that will produce maybe the one enduring masterpiece of Prewitt's life : "The Re-enlistment Blues" Because he was a soldier, and because he could see it all then, in the easily shattered crystal clarity of the thin glass goblet of the silence that is guard duty in the field at night the last hour before you are relieved.
Maybe the Re-enlistment Blues also came out of that. Outside the barracks, Prewitt is a man searching - for companionship, for oblivion in a bottle of hard liquor, for love in the most inappropriate places, for an answer to existential questions: And it seemed to him then that every human was always looking for himself, in bars, in railway trains, in offices, in mirrors, in love, especially in love, for the self of him that is there, someplace, in every other human.
Love was not to give oneself, but find oneself, describe oneself. So we get to know Prewitt also through the eyes of Lorene, a professional hooker that is still capable of falling in love with a vulnerable man who hides many insecurities behind the tough guy exterior. Maureen, another of his love interest reads him like a book: All you got is a feeling you're locked up in a box thats two sizes too small for you and theres no air in it and you're suffocatin, and all the time outside the box you hear the whole world walking around laughin and having a big, big time.
Thats all you got. In the same existentialist vein, here is a glimpse of the see-saw experience Prewitt is going through, from exhilaration to despondency: Life frightened him, sometimes. But there was nothing to do, anyway. Because this special quality was a thing he could not control in himself, that he could not stop. But then when he was going good he knew it was better to face it, that it was always better to face things no matter what it cost anybody.
He knew that. He believed it. Only in the bad spells did life frighten him with its unbelieveble cruelty, its inconceivable injustice, its incredible pointlessness. I have told you about my favorite part : Prewitt singing Taps in the evening. I should also talk a little about some parts that were problematic. One of these is the portrayal of homosexuals - it may be a good thing that their culture is mentioned and given exposure at a time when most of the establishment pretended they don't exist, but for one thing Prewitt and his friends are boasting about beating these guys up, and for another, there is an implication that gays are damaged goods and have deep psychological issues: Why do you always pick up somebody who aint queer?
Because if you're with another queer, you don't feel evil enough, thats why. Women don't get a much better outlook than gays, an issue that bothered me a lot also when reading "Some Came Running". Jones if often making me think that, through his characters, he hates women intellectually, even as he desires them physically. And they called them the weaker sex! That was prone to crack up and cry at every crisis! Like hell. The women ran this world; and nobody knew it better than a man in love. Sometimes he thought they did it deliberately, all this conspiracy stuff, just to satisfy some ancient racial love of intrigue inherited from the generations of conspiring to play the role of being dominated.
That was always the greatest single blunder in this game. That put him in her power as Dana had never been in her power. She could make him do anything now, even become an officer, now that she was sure he did love her. He was no longer a free agent, and as a result the old wild terrible strength that had been the power and pride of Milt Warden was gone.
Also disturbing, but I believe in a necessary way, is the exposure of the cruel practices deployed by the jailers of recalcitrant soldiers in the Stockade. Both Maggio and Prewitt end up in the slammer, where they are subject to much more atrocious brutalities than "The Treatment". It is said that Jones book provoked a review of these practices and abuses in the US Army. If true, the novel has served its purpose admirably.
Despite these abuses, it is inside this Stockade that Maggio and Prewitt find a sort of redemption with the help of a renegade sailor, a guru of Oriental sensibilities: If God is Instability rather than Fixity, if God is Growth and Evolution, then there is no need for the concept of forgiveness. The mere concept of forgiveness implies the doing of something wrong.
Original sin. But if evolution is growth by trial and error, how can errors be wrong? Before I close my review, I would like to mention that I saw the movie of Fred Zinnemann from soon after reading the novel. I believe the casting was inspired, in particular Montgomery Clift and Burt Lancaster. I also think Zinneman did a decent job with the huge material he had in the book, but he also did a lot of changes to tone down the harshness of the foul language, the drinking and the whoring. This isn't as important as the whitewashing of the army officers, who are shown in the late parts of the movie to punish the abusive behaviour of Captain 'Dynamite' Holmes.
In the novel he is promoted and given more power to apply his doctrine of discipline through fear. Re-enlistment blues. Took my ghelt to town on Tuesday Got a room and a big double bed Find a job tomorrow Tonight you may be dead Aint no time to lose. Hit the bars on Wednesday My friends put me up on a throne Found a hapa-Chinee baby Swore she never would leave me alone did I give her a bruise? Re-enlistment blues!
Woke up sick on Thursday Feelin like my head took a dare Looked down at my trousers All my pockets was bare that gal had blown my fuse. Went back around on Friday Asked for a free glass of beer My friends had disappeared Barman say, "Take off, you queer! The jail was cold all Sa'day Standin' up on a bench lookin down Through them bars I watched the people All happy and out on the town Looked like time for me to choose, them Re-enlistment blues.
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Slept in the park that Sunday Seen all the folks goin to church Your belly feels so empty Dog soljers dont own pews. So I re-upped on Monday A little sad and sick at my heart All y fine plans was with my money In the poke of a scheming tart Guy always seems to lose. View all 12 comments. Nov 25, Jeff rated it it was amazing Shelves: war , modern-library , topever , , top For years this has just been that "super-long WWII novel about Hawaii during Pearl Harbor" that I knew was supposed to be good but never could bring myself to read.
So when I finally read it, I was pretty surprised that it wasn't anything that I was expecting. This is held up as a WWII novel. But its NOT a war novel. It's a novel about peacetime soldiers. The book takes place over the full year of , and Pearl Harbor happens near the end, and is not what the book is about. This is a book about For years this has just been that "super-long WWII novel about Hawaii during Pearl Harbor" that I knew was supposed to be good but never could bring myself to read. This is a book about what it was like to be in the army in the peacetime years leading up to WWII.
Its amazing that it was published in the early s This is a character novel, and the characters are amazing: crisp, consistent, flawed, real. Historical fiction is too much about events and facts and specific key individuals. This is historical fiction that is much different than other "WWII novels" It was interesting, yet not surprising, when I read in the afterward that the book From Here to Eternity beat out for the National Book Award in is another great character study of that decade: The Catcher in the Rye.
Frankly, I think this one is better though you can read The Catcher in the Rye five times in the time it takes to read From Here to Eternity. Though its not for everyone: this is a character novel about military enlisted men. So it's unapologetically manly. Because its about unapologetic men who do really stupid shit. NOTE: If you decide to read this, be sure to read the "Restored Edition", which does add back some of the original manuscript that was edited out when it was originally published at Jones' adamant objection.
This is the first. Hell of a book. Feminist characters. Cuckolded husbands actually, everyone gets cuckolded. Homosexuals debating at length the nature of their sexual orientation. Proto-Hippie gurus. Non-conformist rebels. And, an Army story in there somewhere too.
Must've been very heady stuff for ! I can't believe it was even published back then. Great book.
Great summer read. Could've used less "grinning". Oh yeah- not to make too much of an understatement if you've seen the film you've really only s Hell of a book. Oh yeah- not to make too much of an understatement if you've seen the film you've really only scratched the surface of the story. Highly recommended if you liked the movie. View all 5 comments. An epic read and an epic story. It was well worth the effort. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book, and how believable I found the characters to be.
View all 11 comments. Jun 30, Daniel Villines rated it it was amazing. Society can be considered a fabric that surrounds us. Society, keeps us safe, wards off isolation, and also defines the possibilities of our success. But society is not tailor-made. Regardless of who we are, however, we must live with the fit that society affords us or suffer the consequences of living wi Society can be considered a fabric that surrounds us.
Regardless of who we are, however, we must live with the fit that society affords us or suffer the consequences of living without its collective warmth. From Here to Eternity use the world of the Army as it existed pre-draft, pre-WWII, to recreate a small, deeply personalize model of society. The Army, with all of its politics, vices, egotistical influences, and rules interacts with the two main characters in ways that echo our modern-day interactions with society.
The two main characters serve to illustrate the two extremes of human-societal interactions.
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On one side of the extreme, Sgt. Prewitt exemplifies the other extreme. Prewitt is driven by his personal need to be true to himself regardless of expectations. Rather than try to pull the lumpy parts of the blanket over him to create a better fit, he simply throws the blanket off, accepts the consequences, and lives true to his convictions.
Prewitt exemplifies the punishment that society doles out to its non-conformists. Warden and Prewitt; both men know instinctively who they are. Not only do they suffer their individual fates but they also suffer their desires to be more like each other. Prewitt desires the collective warmth but cannot deny his true self. Warden desires to live as his true self but cannot give up the rewards that society has bestowed upon him. By the end of the book, you are left to evaluate the suffering that both men endure and you are left to wonder if we, as individuals, will ever be at peace amongst our collective selves.
And so it goes for all of us, from here to the end of time. View 2 comments. May 27, Rozzer rated it did not like it Shelves: reviewed , america , fiction. It's really very interesting. Not this book, which is in my view a complete waste of time, but the whole concept of the middlebrow novel, a genre that has disappeared. Being new here at Goodreads, I've spent quite some time wandering around and jiggering all the bells and whistles.
And I've seen hundreds and hundreds of book titles and authors, both those chosen by members and those otherwise included and promoted on the website. And while of course I can find old midth Century middlebrow nov It's really very interesting. And while of course I can find old midth Century middlebrow novels if I specifically enter their names in the search function, they're nowhere mentioned or named or bruited about by current members or as favorites or leading choices.
Most of these middlebrow novels aren't worth anyone's time, at least if you're not really insisting on killing that time dead, dead, dead. But most of them there are so MANY! Don't get me wrong: there are plenty of novels from the period that are now and always have been great and remarkable and valuable. But most of those, in my view at least, are genre-types. What are the unifying characteristics that make it possible for me to issue such sweeping generalizations about middlebrow novels? Well, for starters they were written, published and purchased for and by members of a very specific stratum of then American society.
Primarily middle and upper middle class women with some education who stayed at home. I was growing up then, as a child and an adolescent, and can remember only too well the quiet, peaceful, spotless living rooms of these women into which would arrive every so often the latest choice of the Book-of-the-Month Club. Not in theory unlike the kind of self-censorship practiced by Dickens in an earlier age, these novels were restricted.
There were numbers of taboos that had to be respected in their language, their subject matter, their plots and their settings. Not to mention their people and their people's roles. The vast majority of social restrictions that now or at any other time hold or held sway do so in an entirely unconscious manner. With regard to middlebrow novels in the midth Century it was taken for granted at the time that the family living space, a purely mental construct in which the novel reader and her family lived and loved and had their being, was, like the physical house itself, a boundaried space.
There was our space "here", where she and her family and friends existed and had as pleasant as possible a social life, and then, beyond the mental garden wall, so to speak, there was the outside "there", dangerous terrain in which anything could and probably did happen. Just as was true for the inside of the actual physical house, the local mental space, the "here", of course required cleanliness and protection from all the negative things in the outside "there".
You wouldn't track outside mud into the house, you'd scrape it off your shoes on the mat at the door. And the same could be said of that mental space in which the family existed. There were attitudes negativism, cynicism, defeatism, communism, sexuality that were simply dirt to be excluded. Not in the slightest in a nasty, repressed, pursed-mouth fashion. By no means. One did that in order to preserve for the family mental living space the kind of quiet, ordered, cleanly calm and peace of the living room in the actual house itself.
It was natural. It was automatic. It was what self-respecting people did. And the writers of that era, or most of them at least, who desired some kind of commercial success, wrote novels that excluded not only objectionable language does ANYONE remember "objectionable language"?
Looking back on it now, it's almost cute. Almost endearing. I'm sure it wasn't for the poor novelists of the time. But there really has been a huge, huge development since that era, to the point that it's very, very doubtful that young adults of today have any conception of what it was like to grow up and live in such an "unchallenged" and "unchallenged" is the key word here , self-limited way. Everyone then, unconsciously, helped everyone else keep "dirty" things on the other side of the mental door. The lady of the house did it for her friends and relations.
Her friends and relations did it for her. Everyone cooperated, most certainly including teachers and librarians. And the novelists did it too. Just go back and try to read "Marjorie Morningstar" without either bursting into uncontrollable laughter or throwing up. Or, for that matter, "From Here to Eternity. You may like the characters. But after you get under way in your reading you will, at some point, develop a sense of strangeness, of being in a sealed-off little bubble of unreality. All by yourself. And that was the price of admission. For those folks who wanted to keep their mental homes spick and span, clean and neat, healthy and wholesome and without the taint of infection, the cost was substantial.
The cost was loneliness and a sense of unreality. Middlebrow novels. They're gone now. Their market has been shattered into a thousand genres and sub-genres that permit authors to focus on very particular protocols applying to very specific types of fiction. Authors can specialize and readers can specialize, in a kind of symbiosis advantageous to both. Nor will people of today put up with the kind of mental straitjacket that was absolutely normal in Most readers today, at least part of the time, want to come to grips with what's really out there.
Escapism is all well and good but most people today want some reassurance that at least some aspects of their preferred fictions deal with fundamental realities. It's true in science fiction. It's true in fantasy. It's true in mysteries and thrillers, and it's even true in romance. Escapism plus, sort of like breakfast cereal with added vitamins and minerals.
Were he to come back to earth tomorrow, James Jones would have a very hard time orienting himself to who and what we are in He might try again to write books, but if he wanted to be published in our time, he'd have to include a much more substantial slice of reality which, like garlic, is today's public taste. Myself, I think it's a good thing. View all 19 comments. I have had the book on the shelf for probably close to 30 years,and never read it till now. I need to rewatch the movie again now I enjoyed it,and it went into a lot more details about the characters lives, then any movie ever could,and it was heavy on the military life, and what it's like to be a soldier in those days.
I would recommend this to anyone I may read those some day Enjoy the book first before you see the film Sep 27, Czarny Pies rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: Anyone who has heard tales of life in the army. Shelves: american-literature. From to all able bodied men in United States army were required to serve in the American military for 2 years. During this 33 period there were 16 years of war and 17 years of peace. The experience of military service spawned many excellent novels reflecting on life in the military and on the military vocation.
From Here to Eternity is one of my favourite in the bunch. Although, From Here to Eternity might be classified as a war novel because the events of the last several chapters take From to all able bodied men in United States army were required to serve in the American military for 2 years. Although, From Here to Eternity might be classified as a war novel because the events of the last several chapters take place in Hawaii during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, it is primarily about men who chose to make the military their career vocation.
Being an American not a European, James Jones focusses not on the officers but on the "30 year men" who serve in the enlisted ranks. The two protagonists are from the non-commissioned ranks.
From Here to Eternity (United States, 1953)
Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt a simple soul form the hills of Kentucky and First Sgt. Milt Warden is an altogether more worldly individual. Prewitt is harassed by his superior officer who wants him to box in the internal army competitions. Prewitt however adamantly refuses because having blinded a competitor in an earlier competition no longer wants to box. The officer increases the pressure on Prewitt until he kills one of his tormentors and then flees.
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When the Japanese attack, Prewitt feels compelled to return to fight with his comrades but is killed by a sentry as he approaches the base. Warden seduces to the wife of the officer persecuting Prewitt. The wife confides to Prewitt that she cannot have children because of a case of gonorrhea that she received from her husband. She and Warden agree on a plan.
She will divorce her husband and he will apply to write the officer's exam so that the two will have a comfortable living. Warden successfully passes the exam but decides that he is not emotionally prepared to cross the line separating officers from enlisted men. He decides to break off the relationship. Thus our two main protagonists are both profoundly attached to the "30 year" life of the enlisted man. Prewitt dies attempting to return after having deserted. Warden resolutely refuses to switch horses mid-stream choosing to remain in the enlisted ranks to the end. From Here to Eternity is a very powerful novel that in the s rang very true to me.
The picture of the military life as described to me by my father who was in the war time air force and by two uncles who were career or "30 year" enlisted men like Prewitt and Warden corresponds very closely to the army life described in this book. I recommend anyone interested in this phase of American history to read this wonderful novel.
View all 10 comments. Then, too, I suspect that in instances when the movie was the original, inspired creation, and the book was the one riding the coattails—as in the novelized versions of Dark Knight and Terminator—the opposite is true. The movie is much better than the book. Someone else might have to corroborate this idea, because I, for one, have never and will never read the novelization of any movie. My main premise is as follows: The emotive fire of the creative artist loses its heat when transferred to another medium. This girl was aware of it , aware of him, but she was utterly above it.
She was aware of it and she ignored it. Must be twenty-three or —four, he thought, noticing that she walked very straight and that her hair was done in a circular roll low on her neck and that she had very wide eyes that looked at him serenely openly. She stopped by them and smiled at him and he noticed her mouth was very wide across the thin childishness of her face, he noticed the long lips were very full especially at the corners.
She has a beautiful face, he thought. It was the voice that belonged with the rest of her. I call that plain goddam bad manners. I leave you people to your lovin. Did I mention prostitutes—male solicitors included— gambling, gay night life, boxing, homicidal beatings, vengeance murders, and gun-in-the mouth suicides? There was a large blot of blood and phlegmy matter on the ceiling around the hole where the bullet had gone on through. At the heart of the matter, the book is truer, both emotionally and philosophically.
In the wholesome, domesticated ideology of the s when shows like Leave it to Beaver sought to impose a moral compass on postwar America, From Here to Eternity reminded a generation of men of what they had, in fact, experienced: suicides, genocide, prostitution, gambling, boxing, explicit language, beatings, court martial, extra-marital affairs. As an enlisted soldier of the US Army, I myself was summoned, along with the Chaplain, to the scene of a suicide. An MP had shot himself in the head. This soldier had left his wife and kids for a German national only to have the Fraulein empty his bank account and leave.
We were stationed in Holland, not Germany, where both marijuana and prostitution were legal; many soldiers were sent home, including the Sergeant Major for allegedly assaulting a girl. Drinking and gambling were popular pastimes in the barracks. I recall one particular officer who lost his security clearance because of bad debts. One PFC was busted down to a plain private because he had been drinking on guard duty. Which reminds me of the title of the work itself, a phrase that is lost like the emotional and philosophical truth of the story upon anyone who sees the movie without having read the novel.
Why would someone do such a stupid thing? Well, I for one did it because I made more money through singing bonuses and student-loan repayments than I would have as an officer. As for other gentlemen-rankers—like First Sergeant Milton Warden of the story—their reasons can be found, all the same, in their values and identity. In the novel, Captain Holmes actually befriends a young general and is promoted to the rank of major.
But the point is that an enlisted man, an NCO non-commissioned officer specifically, does the real, day-to-day work of the army, and the officers get the credit. Warden shares the same view of many NCOs that I came across in the army. Jones, too, as the author, seems to have his own private line of equity, striving to portray each character as honestly as possible. The fight is pretty much a draw. Also, despite the foibles of his main characters, Jones gives them redeeming qualities that, on the balance, make them likable.
Consequently, he earns our respect and love, while they remain intellectually, physically, and morally lazy. In terms of craft, Jones creates a Thrillerary, my favorite types of novel. Like the consummate author of a thriller, Jones plants the question of the scene first: Will Angelo escape or be arrested or killed? And like the consummate author of a literary novel, Jones portrays conflicts born of the very psychology of his characters.
Prewitt will have an easy stay in G-Company if he simply agrees, against his principles, to box for Captain Holmes. Warden can be an officer if he agrees, against his will, to submit the paperwork. Add to this mix an authentic, expertly rendered dialogue, and you have a book, a National Book Award winner, that for all intents and purposes, is much better than any movie. From IMDb: In Hawaii, a private is cruelly punished for not boxing on his unit's team, while his captain's wife and second in command are falling in love.
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From Here to Eternity
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