Tomas's Reviews > Once There Was a War

Once There Was a War by John Steinbeck
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Dec 16, 2010

it was amazing

War. "Murderous nonsense", as described by John Steinbeck in his novel "Once There Was A War", War is a screw up of humanity. Steinbeck conveys his distaste for war, stating in the introduction his views on war and his experience through it. He was an American war correspondent during WWII, and his book is a collection of his articles. Each article has its own plot, its own story, its own point to it. Although one thing stands out among his work, and that is the idea that war isn't so great, it isn't so beneficial, and it shouldn't be glorified. Throughout his articles, Steinbeck uses the human connection to war, he portrays the soldier's own thoughts on the war, the citizen's attitude toward the war, and the senseless brutality of war on the human race.

When it comes to mind, some people might imagine that war includes brave soldiers who go and attack the enemy, protecting America from the dangers outside. Here, Steinbeck shows the actual emotion of the soldiers and how they would rather not be in war at all. "no one has mentioned war", Steinbeck writes, as he observes British and Dutch sailors preparing to take off on an operation. Bomber pilots hate the wait before they go on missions, and the uneasiness is reflected through their conversations, "The uneasiness creeps all through the room. It takes the channel of being funny. They tell jokes; they rag one another". They aren't talking about battle, these men. They don't want to go into battle headfirst, they want to be back home and return to their families. Death is what scares every human being and that fear is shown here, these men have to wait before they go to battle, and even though they don't show their fear outright, it is still there.

Steinbeck talks about the ideology of citizens and other people who aren't directly in the war. He mentions the blind patriotism that was around during WWII and how if people tried to resist against the war effort then they were considered collaborators with the enemy, " a huge and gassy thing called the War Effort. Anything which interfered with or ran counter to the War Effort was automatically bad.” This effort helped America push through WWII, but in all the prideful association with war isn’t so great. When people actually saw war first hand from their homes (televised Vietnam War), there was protest to war. During WWII, as we can see in this novel, people didn't see the brutality of war.

Steinbeck includes the detail in his articles that follows with war, the brutality of war. He has a very grim article that discusses a seemingly perfect day in England at the theater, but when a bombing happens, things turn from good to horrible, "He [the raider] was very low when he released his bombs... whipped around, came back, and poured his guns into the wreck... he left behind the screaming of children in pain and fear." There are casualties in war, but human life is sacred and to take away people's lives isn't right. The Blitz in England showed the brutal side of war, especially where it hurt the most, civil ground. The enemy bombarded England during the Blitz. Steinbeck asked people about what they remembered the most about the blitz, and most of the answers were about experiences directly after the blitz which they remember the most, "it's the glass... glass being swept up... that is what I remember most... the constant sound of broken glass being swept up." It is here we see how traumatizing war can be.

People have their own views on war. Some people glorify war, and want to participate in it, some people have seen war first hand and would rather be out of it. Society has many different things that connect people to war, war video games, violent movies, etc. Steinbeck's novel spans through time, even though it was made around 50 years prior to now (now means 2010-2011), it issues the strong point that war is violent, useless, and a disgusting mishap in human society.
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