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The Thin Red Line (1962)

by James Jones

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1,3612114,141 (3.84)47
They are the men of C-for-Charlie Company. "Mad" 1st Sgt. Eddie Welsh, SSgt. Don Doll, Pvt. John Bell, Capt. James Stein, Cpl. Fife, and dozens more just like them, infantrymen in "this man's army" who are about to land grim and white-faced on an atoll in the Pacific called Guadalcanal. This is their story, a shatteringly realistic walk into hell and back. In the days ahead some will earn medals; others will do anything they can dream up to get evacuated before they land in a muddy grave. But they will all discover the thin red line that divides the sane from the mad, and the living from the dead, in this unforgettable portrait that captures for all time the total experience of men at war.… (more)
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English (19)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
This is on my to-read list for a while, because I have long been a fan of the Terrence Malick film and wanted to see how the novel compared.

The film is a typical Malickian meditation on man's desecration of nature (and himself). Witt is the moral voice of the film, asking a series of questions that are basically Zen koans: what is this war in the heart of man? What is this war in nature? It came out the same year as Saving Private Ryan, a more jingoistic film that went on to win Best Picture while TTRL was relegated to the dustheap.

The blurbs compare TTRL to All Quiet on the Western Front and Red Badge of Courage. All three consider the meaning of courage in the face of the absurdity of war. Jones presents courage as an act: everyone in C-for-Charlie Company is terrified of their first attack up the Elephant's Head, but the social pressure to not seem like a coward in front of peers is too strong to cause men to turn in free in the face of likely, and pointless, death.

It is this social pressure that is the fulcrum on which the war turns. I think Jones is playing with an existentialist metaphor: there are a few soldiers who seem to accept death, and volunteer for the most dangerous missions. They are the few making a moral choice outside of the battle numbness and the fog of war. A clerk named Fife is presented as a coward who eventually must conquer his fear, only to be evacuated for a bum ankle at the end of the novel. He also makes a moral choice to flee the theater of war, leaving the comrades who pushed him to face death in battle. He resists the social pressure to stay with the group.

This is a profound novel that gives real insight into the culture of an Army company during WWII. ( )
  jonbrammer | Jul 1, 2023 |
Ett amerikanskt skyttekompani anländer till andra världskrigets krigsskådeplats i Stilla Havet. Uppdraget är att besegra och fördriva japanerna från ön Guadalcanal.På nära håll får vi följa de blodiga striderna, ett krig som inte är en hjältarnas kamp utan ett grymt och motbjudande hantverk. Ur manskapet lösgör sig undan för undan en rad individer; kompanichefen Stein som inte står ut med att offra sina män, sergeant Welsh, en vältränad krigsmaskin, Mazzi och Tills, länkade till varandra i djupt hat men också i ett slags krigarens obrottsliga lojalitet
  CalleFriden | Feb 18, 2023 |
8447314359
  archivomorero | Jun 28, 2022 |
James Jones found that he had done an awful thing. At the end of writing "From Here To Eternity" he had killed off his main character, Robert E. Lee Pruitt. having done that, he had to create a different set of characters in order to do his Combat, as opposed to peace-time army novel. I believe he always felt that hampered the efforts he put into the other three novels. However, his combat novel, "The Thin Red Line" is still a very good piece of writing. It follows in good detail, an outflanking movement that was crucial in the real Guadalcanal campaign. The writing is four star, and so are the characters. Their motivations are not quite so good as the ones in "From Here to Eternity" but..... ( )
1 vote DinadansFriend | Jan 21, 2022 |
"The Thin Red Line" is James Jones’ follow-up novel to his epic success "From Here To Eternity". Following the same Army Platoon “Company C for Charlie” James Jones moves the story from the Hawaiian Army base to the famous battle of Guadalcanal, for the soldiers first experience of warfare. Most of the characters are new in this sequel. As you will soon discover, there is a huge turnover of soldiers for a multitude of reasons.

James Jones illustrates within this story there is a thin red line between life and death, honor and greed, leadership and bully tactics, right and wrong, love and hate, and compassion and cowardice.

Each of the soldiers in Company C experiences their own pain, glory, heartache, fear, courage, and sometimes total confusion. My husband’s second cousin was a psychiatrist during WW II and he once explained to me that his original intention was to be a medical Dr. but his services were desperately required for helping traumatized soldiers experiencing "shell shock" and he ended up dedicating his entire career to psychiatry. Little was known about Post Traumatic Syndrome during WW II.

This novel is much harder to digest than the graphic visual presentations of war scenes in movies because James Jones takes you inside the minds of various soldiers - consciously living their thoughts, dreams (nightmares), insecurities, depression, and feeling of hopelessness. Not knowing who would be the next to die. Not knowing when the war would ever end. Not having the strength or energy to continue fighting, even thought there is no other alternative but to lay down and die.

This is the story of just one battle, the soldiers of one platoon - up close and personal. All the characters are fictional, but the plot is based on James Jones personal experience during WW II.

Rated 5 Stars August 2021

The final volume of this trilogy (Whistle) takes place at a VA hospital - thus, the reader gets to experience a different side of the war, and once again, a different group of characters of Charlie Company. ( )
1 vote LadyLo | Sep 18, 2021 |
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This book is cheerfully dedicated to those greatest and most heroic of all human endeavors, WAR and WARFARE; may they never cease to give us the pleasure, excitement and adrenal stimulation that we need, or provide us with the heroes, the presidents and leaders, the monuments and museums which we erect to them in the name of PEACE.
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The two transports had sneaked up from the south in the first graying flush of dawn, their cumbersome mass cutting smoothly through the water whose still greater mass bore them silently, themselves as gray as the dawn which camouflaged them.
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They are the men of C-for-Charlie Company. "Mad" 1st Sgt. Eddie Welsh, SSgt. Don Doll, Pvt. John Bell, Capt. James Stein, Cpl. Fife, and dozens more just like them, infantrymen in "this man's army" who are about to land grim and white-faced on an atoll in the Pacific called Guadalcanal. This is their story, a shatteringly realistic walk into hell and back. In the days ahead some will earn medals; others will do anything they can dream up to get evacuated before they land in a muddy grave. But they will all discover the thin red line that divides the sane from the mad, and the living from the dead, in this unforgettable portrait that captures for all time the total experience of men at war.

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