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The long and the short and the tall

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Introduction

In what ways, and for what reasons do the attitudes of Bamforth and Maclesish change towards the prisoner of war during the course of the play? How are these attitudes shown through language and action, and how might they be brought out in a production through stage action and gesture? The Long and the Short and the Tall, written by Willis Hall, is a play set in Malaya during the Second World War (1939 - 1945). At this time, the Japanese forces poured down the Malayan peninsula to attack the British from behind. The patrol in the play had been sent to discover the movements and strength of the Japanese. Willis Hall was himself part of the professional army at the age of 17 and his service took him to the Far East for many years. This is where he acquired most of the inspiration needed for writing this play. Hall raises many issues in the play that were present and needed to be dealt with. The main issue is the treatment of a prisoner of war and linking to this are other issues like loyalty, companionship and innocence. These issues are raised by Hall through the actions and sayings of the characters in the play. Each character has a different opinion and attitude towards war and Hall shows this on how they react to the prisoner of war. I will be specifically looking at the characters of Bamforth and Macleish as these characters change the most during and after the capture of the prisoner of war. Bamforth is a private and Macleish is an L/Corporal. Bamforth's character is shown clearly at the very beginning of the play as a disobedient and arrogant character with an unprofessional attitude towards war. Bamforth's first lines 'You want me, Corp', 'What's up?' and 'You going to inspect us, Corp?' are replies to Corporal Johnston. They suggest to us that he has a laid back attitude and is not afraid to question anyone with higher authority than himself. ...read more.

Middle

Hall uses this movement in two parts for dramatic action effect. Bamforth stays loyal with the prisoner by using his intelligence to get the prisoner out of trouble. He does this by using Whitaker as a culprit to reverse the blame on the prisoner, 'Who's collected more Jap swag than any regiment?... Private Winnie Whitaker' Willis Hall raises another issue to the audience here that no matter who the enemy is or where he comes from, he is still a human being. He relates in this way to show the British audience, who were afraid of the Japanese in World War Two and the 1950s, that they were also just human beings. Bamforth uses a weak Whitaker as a weapon in his passionate defence of the prisoner and in this way separates himself from the patrol further. His intelligence and aggression demonstrate a clarity of thought lacking in others. Here Willis Hall raises the issue of morality in war as Whitaker is unable to defend himself, 'They're only souviniers...I swooped some things from them'. He is forced to confess and is trapped by the words of Bamforth. At this point in the play, the audience can see that Bamforth now talks as the voice of good and reason among the patrol. By the end of the play, Bamforth discovers that Mitchem has dreadful consequences in store for the prisoner. Bamforth is traumatized at this and so argues pleading, 'For Christ's sake!...He's a man!' This phrase completely contrasts the attitude of Bamforth previously. Before we saw his relish to kill and how he compared killing the prisoner to 'carving up a pig'. Human dignity is now accounted for the prisoner. This complete change of attitude to war questions the audience if it is just to kill in war and shows the psychological battle faced by soldiers during war between morals as a human and duties as a soldier. ...read more.

Conclusion

In this way, he is a character who the audience have difficulty sympathising with. When the prisoner is first captured, Bamforth is the only person willing to kill him showing that he has a strong mental capacity. Then when put in charge of the prisoner, Bamforth is quick to torment the prisoner for his personal pleasure by giving him pet like tasks. However once Bamforth finds out about the prisoner's family, a relationship starts with him. After this point, we see the other side of Bamforth which contrasts with our first impression of him. This relationship between the two develops on such a high scale that Bamforth defends the prisoner when everyone else is against him. By the end of the play, Bamforth doesn't distinguish between the prisoner and the other members of the patrol. Macleish is more of an idealistic working class man who most of the audience can relate to. As he is conscripted, he does not have the military intelligence of Mitchem and Johnstone and so although he is hard working, he finds it difficult to carry out his duties as an NCO. We see this when he is unable to control the patrol when left in charge. When the prisoner is captured, he is one of the few that are unwilling to kill the prisoner. As Macleish represents most of the audience, he shows the terror in having to kill a human being in cold blood. Like Bamforth, he too believes that war should be fought by the rules as he is an idealist. His attitude towards the prisoner changes according to the hope he has of his brother who he believes has been captured by the Japanese. He treats the prisoner as he would like the Japanese to treat his brother. Although Mitchem's plans to kill the prisoner and his own changing behaviour to the prisoner cause confusion and leave Macleish in a helpless situation. Macleish's scenario represents the moral dilemmas of war. Talha Raja 10MR ...read more.

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