Generals Die in Bed
A Story From the TrenchesBook - 2002
Generals die in bed, while soldiers die in the trenches, horrifically, unimaginably, infested with lice and surrounded by rats fattened on corpses. There are no rules, no expectations in war. And there is certainly no glamour. Instead, the men inhabit a senseless world, trusting only the instinct to stay alive.
Based on his own experiences in the First World War, Charles Yale Harrison writes a stark and poignant story from the point of view of a young man sent to fight on the Western Front. Beginning in Montreal, the scene soon shifts from the cheering crowds, streamers, and music of the farewell parade to the stench of the trenches, where the soldiers meticulously divide up the stale, gray "war" bread and rationed sugar for their weak tea.
In stark, graphic detail, Harrison writes of the soldiers' fear as the crumbling dirt walls of the palisade tumble down upon them during a shell attack. He recounts the horror of face-to-face combat, where the enemy is revealed to be a smooth-skinned lad, no different from the boy down the street. He shows compassion for both the killer and the killed, each innocent, in a situation without choice.
In raw, powerful prose, the insanity of war is shown clearly as Harrison questions the meaning of heroism, of truth, and of good and evil.
The First World War may seem distant and irrelevant to many young people today, but it is a timeless and important lesson. Seen through the eyes of the adolescent narrator, the experience of trench warfare takes on renewed vibrancy as readers identify with the plight of the youthful soldiers. Harrison's vivid account is a valuable resource for all teachers and students of history and of the human condition.
An introduction places Generals Die In Bed in its proper literary context, beside All Quiet on the Western Front and A Farewell to Arms . Harrison's concise, blunt writing style is an effective means of conveying the reality of war and an example to students of literature. Originally published in 1930, this book was lauded as "the best of the war books" by the New York Evening Standard.