The novel The Long March by William Styron is a prime example of anti-war, anti-government, and anti-military writing. William Styron uses marine reserves, which are forced to make a 36 mile march that they are not prepared for, to show the brutality and hypocrisy in the leaders of this country.
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The reserves are people that have been out of the service for many years, but have just been called back into service. A terrible accident has just occurred at the base they are stationed at. A mortar volley landed off the mark onto of a line of young soldiers waiting for food. Nothing even slows down on the base, except for the medics in units being sent to the accident site. The reserves are then marched back from training exercises and the whole way the characters fight against their own limits and the odds.
The novel is set at a marine base in the Carolinas. The climate in the novel is fair and mild. The year is most likely in the 50’s or 60’s. The time is between large wars. World War II has ended a while back, and the Korean War is about to start. The reserves fought in World War II and one of the officers in command threatens to send a person to Korea. The time and setting lend to the plot and theme in the way that it shows that the march is taking place in America in the peace time. It advances the whole theme showing that the superiors of battalion aren’t trying to get ready for war, just being cruel.
The author uses several styles, and an overall tone to make the novel more interesting, and to advance the theme and plot. The author uses a straightforward chronological order to introduce things as they happen. He revealed all the characters through the eyes of the main character Culver. Things can be seen as Culver saw them happen and his views on the other characters. Irony is used in the way that the colonel couldn’t make the whole march but the reserves, which he wanted to best, marched the whole distance. The tone of the novel is very gloomy but at the same time it is adventurous. One example is near the end of the march when the men are taking a short break and the truck is picking up all the men that have crapped out when, Al Mannix finds out that the colonel got on a jeep a while back, and he hauls people off the truck. This scene shows the adventure of the novel, and the style and tone add excitement to the novel.
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The main character in the novel is a man by the name of Jack Culver. The character is revealed through his own eyes and his own thoughts. Culver has his own family in New York city. He has a wife, a daughter, and a law degree. He stayed on reserve, as a lieutenant, so he could be called back to service, for the first year or two after the war, but forgot to take himself off reserve. His best friend in the marines is Captain Al Mannix.
Captain Al Mannix is another reserve that never thought he would be called to duty. He was caught in a mortar shower in World War II and has shrapnel scars all over his body, for which he got a silver star. He was the second in command of the unit. Before the march he found a nail in his boot, the tip of which jutted into his heel. He still made the march hobbling on his toe the whole way. He disagreed with everything the colonel stood for. The man in charge of the whole outfit was Colonel Templeton. He was a career marine, which led the march. He said that he needed to check the column during the march, but Mannix took his riding in a jeep as a cop out. Templeton was a strict man and liked his nickname ‘Old Rocky’. Hobbs was a kind radio operator that spent most of his time doing work for Templeton. He and O’Leary both made the march. O’Leary was another lifer that had just signed on for another period of four years. He was older than most other men. Major Lawrence was another lifer that led the march after Templeton crapped out. He was younger than Culver and he was on Templeton’s side.
The major theme in the novel was the hypocrisy and idiocy in the superiors. Templeton said that the men were too weak to make the march, but they did, even though he did not. The men in the novel also struggle against their own abilities. The men fight against themselves because they don’t think that they can make it. They struggle through the night until the sun rises and they find out that Templeton has been riding in a jeep. Mannix even finds a way to get the nail out of his shoe. The figurative thorn in his side is removed and he spurs the men to action.
The novel ends as Culver and Mannix laid their battered bodies to rest, ready to wake for the next day as if nothing had happened. Something has happened; the men now know that they are as strong as ever before. They know that they are as fit now as they were before they left. They also know that this isn’t the life they want. The men don’t need the military anymore. They know it strengthened them, but is a dead branch on their lives that they no longer need.