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Consider two contrasting characters in the play. How does the playwright convey their personalities and their attitudes to the situation in which they find themselves?

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Introduction

Consider two contrasting characters in the play. How does the playwright convey their personalities and their attitudes to the situation in which they find themselves? The playwright of 'The Long, the Short and the Tall' is Willis Hall and he wrote it in 1959. The play is set in the Malaysian jungle in 1942 during the Second World War. It is about a British scout patrol, which is caught in the unexpected Japanese advance down the Malaysian peninsula. It deals with men from all over Britain, from different backgrounds and cultures, and their relationships with each other. The main issue though, is whether the men are able to kill another human being. It shows their reactions in tense and almost unreal situations. World War Two lasted from 1939 to 1945. It was fought in two places; in Europe against Germany and in the Pacific against Japan. Britain and the USA started fighting against Japan because Japan bombed Pearl Harbour in December 1941, which had docked a whole fleet of American war ships. The British and the Americans didn't expect the Japanese to attack, so they were not able to defend themselves. From here Japan continued to expand into other countries. They quickly conquered South-East Asia. The next thing the Japanese did was to invade Singapore in Malaysia. Again the British were completely unprepared for the attack. ...read more.

Middle

Bamforth enjoys making fun of others especially people who can't defend themselves very well like Whitaker and people who are of a certain area such as Wales or Scotland. He tends to generalise about people of a certain area and call them derogatory names. 'You Scotch haggis!', 'you Cardiff creep', You're an ignorant Welsh Taff!' He is a really unpleasant character in the beginning and obviously resents authrority; 'Nit' is what he says under his breath at Johnstone. Johnstone is also unpleasant in the way he threatens Bamforth, but as the person watching the play, with no knowledge of how Bamforth's character will change, I found that I sympathised with Johnstone and felt glad that he was giving Bamforth what he deserved. Their initial reaction was also very similar, as it was Johnstone who grabbed the prisoner and ordered one of the other men to kill him with their bayonet and Bamforth was the only other soldier who felt able to kill him. He regarded the Japanese soldier as only as important as an animal. 'It's only the same as carving up a pig'. The prisoner was very low in his opinion Johnstone has very little contact with the prisoner; he only has direct contact with the prisoner when he has the argument with Bamforth over whether the prisoner should be allowed any cigarettes. ...read more.

Conclusion

He is obviously desperate because he turns to sheer pettiness when each of the men turn him down. 'I hope they carve your brother up. Get that? I hope they carve your bloody brother up!' In the end the decision is made for them as Whitaker shoots the prisoner as he rises, during the fight between Bamforth and Johnstone. The play offers no obvious answers to who was right or what they should have done. It was quite ironic how it is Johnstone left alive at the end who surrenders because it is was he who was prepared to kill their POW, having said this he did not have much choice in the matter. Personally I really don't know what they should have done because it was such a hard decision, but if I had to make a decision I would probably have tried to take the prisoner back to camp rather than hanging around arguing about it. If they had done that they might have had a chance of getting back alive, but as it was they had no hope. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that Johnstone was right, when he said that they should kill the prisoner in the beginning, when none of them were attached to the prisoner and there would have been no problem. However I don't think I would be able to kill someone in that situation - even if I was ordered to. ...read more.

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