Saturday, November 19, 2005

I like this idea of sickness we all seem to be playing with... While reading Vile Bodies, I felt that this constant theme of both sickness and alcohol were reflective of the social problems of the time, which ultimately led to war. As this novel was published in 1930, it is as if Waugh, having lived through both the First and Second World War, is commenting on the stoicism of the British and other schools of thought which led to the First World War (recall Parade's End and Edwardian/Victorianism etc) and also the new generation living within the post-war environment.

The novel is certainly set after WWI, and perhaps even after the Second, as evident in this passage:
"...they were selling artificial poppies in the streets.... it struck eleven and for two minutes all over the country everyone was quiet and serious." (84)
This situation of Vile Bodies in a post-war environment lends a strangly prohetic feel to the text, with the aplocolyptic ending of Adam, one of the "Bright Young People" of the post-war world, on the battlefield, as a plausible destination if things continue as they are (that is, Edwardianism, stoicism, crazy partying, drinking, forgetting the war etc). This reference to Remembrance Day (or, I suppose, Poppy Day in Britain) is only in passing and, in its brief mention, is perhaps addressing the danger of future generations forgetting the war and its causes (recall The General?).

I wonder, where is religion in all this? I guess the angels or John Wesley might have something to say in this or that... but um, maybe I'll save it for some (one else's) future post.

I thought this last image was super amusing... I'm sure this is what everyone in the novel is thinking!

"Adam had a glass of champagne, hoping it would make him feel better. It made him feel much worse." (84)


Blogger whom said...

Oh for goodness sake! Don’t they teach British History in schools anymore?

A brief History lesson is in order here I think.

World War One (also called The Great War) was from 1914 to 1918
World War Two was from 1939 to 1945

You should know this!

The novel Vile Bodies is set in the 1920’s; personally I would have thought that was clear as the publishing date was 1930, nine years BEFORE World War Two.

The first Remembrance Service was held in 1919.
The first official poppy day organised by The British Legion was held in 1921. It was inspired by the poem In Flanders Field by John McCrae. Please read the poem below you might learn something.

In Flanders' fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders' fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders' Fields.

John McCrae 1915

10:52 AM  

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