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Which three or four characters do you think are most to blame for the death of the platoon in ' The Long and the Short and the Tall' by Willis Hall. Explain in detail which character you think most to blame and why.

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'The Long and the Short and the Tall ' By Willis Hall. Which three or four characters do you think are most to blame for the death of the platoon in ' The Long and the Short and the Tall' by Willis Hall. Explain in detail which character you think most to blame and why. Sergeant Mitchem, Private Bamforth and Private Whitaker are the main contenders for ' blame ' in respect of the death of the platoon. However, it is important to recognise that the allocation of significant blame for the death of the platoon is by no means an easy task. In short, although it is Private Whitaker who shoots the Japanese soldier, this act is merely the ' culmination ' of a domino effect of several other contributory factors, not least the individual relationship between platoon members and a series of serious misjudgements by various characters throughout the play. It is possible to construct a reasonably plausible argument that, as ' officer in command ', Sergeant Mitchem must shoulder significant blame for the death of the platoon. Mitchem is ' guilty ' of a series of serious misjudgements, which so obviously have an impact on the fatal finale. Mitchem is in a position of authority, but he does not impress as a strong character or effective leader. Had he been an effective 'leader ' of men under his command, Mitchem should have been able to control the disruptive Bamforth, but he does not. ...read more.


It is quite clear that Bamforth is intent on ' looking after number one ' - himself ! He shows little recognition of the gravity of the position the platoon is in, or real interest in the platoon`s operational objectives. The relationship between Bamforth and the Japanese prisoner is pivotal in terms of the subsequently fatal conclusion of events. His passionate pleas in defence of the Japanese prisoner, in the face of Mitchem`s decision that the prisoner must die, show a side to his character far removed from that shown to his own platoon ' mates '. Once the bonds of friendship are tied with the prisoner, Bamforth changes his position from when he was first captured. At that time, he was nonchalantly contemplating the killing of the prisoner as ' like carving a pig '. The malign influence of Bamforth on the morale, fortune and fate of the platoon is a further example of the problems that can develop without strong leadership, authority and discipline. Private Whitaker, at best a man scraiped from the bottom of the military conscription barrel; at worst, an incompetent, cowardly and deluded fool. We had early evidence in the play as to the character and competence of Whitaker. In Act 1, when the Japanese soldier is outside the hut....the tension mounts as to whether the platoon will be discovered. Mitchem orders Whitaker to grab the radio that is on the table, in full view. What does Whitaker do? ...read more.


The fatal events that follow can, in some measure, be traced back to Whitaker's failure to hide the radio that he was responsible for. Had he done so, then there would have been no need to capture the Japanese soldier who, almost certainly, would have moved on without being captured by the platoon. Arguably, the inability to control his fear in the final scene, gives Whitaker a clear lead as candidate most worthy of blame for the death of the platoon. Once the order has been given, Whitaker is ' trembling with fear ' and unable to calm the by now ' excited ' prisoner. When the agitated prisoner gets up from the chair, instead of using physical force, or perhaps his bayonet, to threaten or coerce the prisoner into sitting down again, we are told that ' Whitaker's finger tightens on the trigger. A long burst from the sten shudders......and the bullets slam home into the body of the prisoner like hammer blows '. The ' long burst from the sten ' fired by Whitaker into the prisoner illustrates, at an individual level, that it must be he who is most directly to blame for the death of the platoon. The catalogue of misjudgements by other characters, and the other contributory factors outlined throughout, culminated in a situation arising in which the split second action of a weak, cowardly and incompetent man effectively sealed the fate of the entire platoon. 1 ...read more.

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