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How does the presence of the Japanese soldier threaten the unity of Sergeant Mitchem's men?

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Introduction

English Coursework Essay - How does the presence of the Japanese soldier threaten the unity of Sergeant Mitchem's men? The play is set in the Malayan Jungle during the Japanese advance on Singapore in 1942. Seven British soldiers have different power due to the ranking hierarchy and they have different attitudes to one another. Sergeant Mitchem is the leader of the soldiers. He is a responsible and good leader which is evident due to him stopping many quarrels among his men and making decisions. For example, when Corporal Johnston and Private Bamforth are having an argument, Mitchem stops the argument by saying 'Right. Pack it in. Both of you'. Next we have Corporal Johnstone, who is second in power to Sergeant Mitchem. It is obvious that Johnstone does not have the respect that Mitchem has. This is because Bamforth has many arguments with him and does not follow his orders efficiently. One example of a quarrel between the two is when Johnstone tells Bamforth to 'Get your pack on!' Bamforth then responds saying 'you going to inspect us, corp.?' The next highest in the hierarchy is L/Corporal Macleish. He is a Scotsman and has regular arguments with Bamforth. In one argument Bamforth called Macleish a 'Scotch Haggis'. ...read more.

Middle

When Bamforth finds the photos of the prisoner's wife and children he develops a new found respect for him. Bamforth begins to see that the enemy actually has feelings too. He finds out that the prisoner has children and compares him to Smith. It is easy for Bamforth to hate what is different and what he does not understand, but when he finds out that the prisoner is not different and he begins to understand him, he begins to like the prisoner. Bamforth says 'he's almost human this one is'. This quote shows Bamforth acknowledging that the prisoner is not actually as bad as he previously thought. Bamforth starts to be friendly towards the prisoner. He gives the prisoner a cigarette, which Johnstone snatches away, initialising a conflict. We begin to wonder whether giving the prisoner a cigarette was a friendly gesture, or one designed to wind up Johnstone. He may actually like the prisoner, or he may be using him as a tool to cause more hostility. When the Japanese prisoner gives Macleish a cigarette, Johnstone mocks him for allowing the soldier to befriend him. Macleish then defends himself by saying that there is no harm in accepting a cigarette. But Johnstone continues to mock him and says 'you ought to go the whole way, lad. ...read more.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I believe that this play is all about the different moralities of war, especially the treatment of prisoners of war. The play can be seen to describe the flaws of mankind just like George Orwell's Animal Farm but it can also be seen to display the true qualities of mankind such as Bamforth's defence of a stranger completely different to him except for a mutual understanding between them. How ironic that Bamforth, the rebellious soldier who we initially disliked at the beginning of the play, turned out to be the sole form of morality within the group of soldiers. Thus, we later learned to respect him and his defence of a person in a war situation who greatly needed it. However, how do we know whether the Japanese will not treat the English prisoner in the same way that we treated their prisoner. How interesting that Mitchem and Johnstone held back Bamforth from stopping Whitaker killing the prisoner. This means that even after all of Bamforth's efforts, they still wanted to have the prisoner killed. Eventually, the unity of Sergeant Mitchem's men is affected because they all turn against Private Bamforth and the soldier. If there was not the presence of the prisoner then the soldiers would operate in their usual way with Bamforth rebelling and not displaying any changes in his character. ?? ?? ?? ?? Miles Kershaw 1 ...read more.

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