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The Long and the Short and the Tall - Examine the Characters of the Men in the Patrol Showing How the Pressure of War affects them.

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Introduction

G.C.S.E Coursework essay: The Long and the Short and the Tall. Examine the Characters of the Men in the Patrol Showing How the Pressure of War affects them. The Long and the Short and the Tall is set during the Second World War in December 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and a series of Japanese naval victories. As the Japanese advance continued towards Malaya, the British forces were pushed back to Singapore, which is situated on the end of a long peninsula, and protected on the land-facing side by dense jungle and swampland. The British high command believed that the Japanese would only attack from the sea; strong defences against a marine attack were raised. When the Japanese forces pushed through the thick jungle and poured down the peninsula to attack the British, it was a complete surprise. With all of their heavy weaponry pointed immovably out to sea, the British were easily defeated. Malaya continued to be occupied until the surrender of the Japanese in 1946. The patrol in Willis Hall's play had been sent from a British army base north of Singapore to watch the movements and strength of the approaching Japanese army. All of the Long and the Short and the Tall takes place in a small, damp hut, which the patrol finds completely deserted. All of the dramatic tension in the play arises through the arguments and conflict between the men. In the case of every member of the patrol, the pressure of war changes him, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. The main characters that will be discussed in this essay are Private Bamforth, a rebellious cockney, who likes to make things difficult for the rest of the patrol; Lance Corporal Macleish, newly promoted and a close follower of regulations; Private Whitaker, a young, eager but inexperienced soldier, Sergeant Mitchem, a natural and experienced leader. ...read more.

Middle

Unlike the others he seems to see the prisoner as a human like himself almost straight away; 'He doesn't seem a bad sort of bloke.' This shows that he is a little more open-minded than the others, but it could also show that he is just worried about his brother. The pressure of war also reveals how na�ve and innocent Macleish is under his serious exterior. He tells Mitchem that he is not sure that he could really kill a man, and is very amused by Mitchem's philosophy that women are the world's biggest problem. Slowly, the realisation that the prisoner is to be killed dawns on him. The fact that he does not catch the hints by Mitchem that the prisoner is to be killed shows his naivety and innocence. He sees it as murder, and becomes very upset; 'It's bloody murder, man!' He is horrified when he finds out that he will be bayoneted; 'Oh god...not that.' He does not want to believe what Mitchem is saying about him - that he is very similar to Bamforth in the way that he knows the army rules off by heart and applies them where he sees fit, and that he is scared of the responsibility that he has been given - even if it is the truth; 'You're talking through your hat.' Throughout most of the book Macleish tries to treat the prisoner as a human. However, as soon as he thinks that the prisoner has been stealing cigarettes from British soldiers he is just as ready to beat him as the rest of the patrol; 'I'll kill him.' This sudden change of heart is likely to be because he realises that his brother could have been one of the soldiers the prisoner has looted from; 'My brother's only 19...for all I know he's dead!' This shows that he is quite hypocritical; he preaches to others about rules and regulations, but when it suits him, he completely ignores. ...read more.

Conclusion

Even under this stress Mitchem can make unpleasant and difficult decisions. When he realises the difficulty of their position, and the fact that, because the Japanese have broken through in large numbers, they cannot survive as well as the prisoner, he is prepared to kill the man in order to improve his own men's chances; 'We've got no choice.' After this, however, Mitchem makes his first visible mistake. He tells Whitaker to try the radio again, even though he knows that it could reveal the patrol's position. This seriously jeopardises the patrol's safety, and decreases their chances of survival significantly. The next incident where the pressure obviously is getting to Mitchem is right at the end of the play, where the stress is at its most intense. He finally loses his temper when Bamforth refuses to get out of the way of the prisoner, and then the prisoner is shot. After a line of abuse from Bamforth, Mitchem strikes him down; 'We've had enough from you.' Mitchem is an extremely strong, competent leader and soldier. He stays unemotional and calculating throughout most of the play. He makes rational, fast decisions under massive pressure. He is also very cynical about nearly everything. However, when the pressure does increase, he becomes short tempered and sarcastic, but still makes equally quick decisions. Next to Bamforth, he is the strongest character in the play. In the Long and the Short and the Tall, there seems to be a general rule, to which all of the characters follow when put under pressure. The weaker characters, such as Macleish, Evans, Smith, and, most obviously, Whitaker, become more and more scared as the pressure mounts. The stronger characters - Johnstone, Mitchem, and most of all, Bamforth, simply become stronger under the pressure, though this strength manifests itself in different ways. The angriest of the characters, Johnstone, is the only one out of all of them to survive. This seems to give out the message the people who survive wars are people like Johnstone - the most violent, not like Bamforth, the bravest, or like Mitchem, the most intelligent and experienced. ...read more.

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