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The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge

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Coursework Essay: The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge Ben Lovett LVG Through the 'Birthday Boys' Beryl Bainbridge has written the accounts of five very different men and their heroic fight to achieve indissoluble greatness. Fascinatingly this straightforward expedition reveals some of the most complex revelations about Edwardian society and its misplaced British class system. Even more interesting is the morals and opinions of the five men and how their desire, whatever it was, drove them to their deaths. We see how Captain Scott, possibly one of the most well-known British heroes, miscalculated time and time again, and learn through the other narrations how he begins to lose the initial trust of his men. Heroism and the values surrounding it were somewhat different then to what they are now. Heroism was far more special and idiosyncratic as the final narrative of captain Oates reveals to us. When reading the book it never feels like a team effort. ...read more.


'Scott of the Antarctic', perhaps one of the most controversial of British Heroes, is very carefully examined by Beryl Bainbridge. Those readers who thought he was an unlucky explorer, caught out by nature but a great leader, are refuted. Those who thought that he was an inhumane, terrible leader are shown his good points. Bainbridge manages to bring a certain realism to the portrayal of a hero whom many have formed strong opinions with very little foundation. He is a very determined and positive leader yet when setting out to an unexplored continent he needs a lot more than determination and a will to succeed. It is easy to feel that Scott has overlooked this. He lacks carefully planned routes and he never has a backup plan when the least he should have is a backup plan for the backup plan! His optimism, in my opinion, is his greatest downfall. ...read more.


For two years he had been setting up supply camps for their return journey to cater for four people, and then decided that five could go along. One would hope a child would not make that sort of mistake let alone an experienced explorer. Despite this no one made any objections. There was a clear hierarchy amongst these men. This hierarchy meant that few decisions were questioned and inevitably when people disagree with a decision, like dropping the skis due to a change of terrain, they lose confidence in their leader and morale drops. 'The Birthday Boys' by Beryl Bainbridge is a carefully written analysis of the Edwardian society, picking up on their naivety, their disjointed class system and their wish to gain respect through becoming a hero. The book is called the birthday boys because the author has captured the child-like qualities of the 1910 expedition so perfectly. It is clear that the death of these men was not needed - yet, by dying, they did achieve the indissoluble greatness they desired and one can only feel that this temptation may itself have contributed to their fate. ...read more.

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