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KxBurns
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THEMES: War and Progress

THEMES threads are for open discussion of themes throughout the entirety of the book. If you're worried about stumbling across spoilers, read no further!

Wars – World War I and II – act as a catalyst for change, both societal and personal, in The House at Riverton. How does war specifically impact the characters in this novel? Do you perceive a gender difference in how the war affects the lives of the characters?

Does the societal gain justify the collateral damage of war, in your opinion? Which characters do you think would agree/disagree with you?

In a greater historical context, how crucial are changing times and values to the course of this narrative?

Karen
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bentley
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Re: THEMES: War and Progress - SPOILERS


KxBurns wrote:
THEMES threads are for open discussion of themes throughout the entirety of the book. If you're worried about stumbling across spoilers, read no further!

Wars – World War I and II – act as a catalyst for change, both societal and personal, in The House at Riverton. How does war specifically impact the characters in this novel? Do you perceive a gender difference in how the war affects the lives of the characters?

Does the societal gain justify the collateral damage of war, in your opinion? Which characters do you think would agree/disagree with you?

In a greater historical context, how crucial are changing times and values to the course of this narrative?

Karen




I am not sure how many of you saw the front page of The New York Times today but there was a major article on trauma and soldiers who have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, etc who have not been able to blend into mainstream America and who have had some very unfortunate outcomes. Interesting article which discussed the stress, emotional repercussions of war trauma and resulting violent displays.

As for HAR; many made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives, the Hartford eldest son and grandson David as well as many other village young men and old. Robbie was transformed forever and Alfred had a most difficult time acclimating himself to his old life and reclaiming his emotional balance. The loss of these lives impacted their wives, their daughters, their parents. Lord and Lady Hartford had their health affected due to the loss of their family. The shortages affected everyone's physical health back home and there was collateral damage as the result of the war and its aftershocks.

England did not have much of a choice during these world wars. They certainly did not want to lose their freedom; these wars were justified. They were not the perpetrators. On the whole I am against war and the innocent loss of civilian lives.

Duty and responsibility were core values during the HAR times; though these are very important concepts and beliefs, today's youth are much more self serving and society does foster self gratification. I do not believe that since World War II that America has had to make any great sacrifices at home; although the current Iraq war has caused major fissures within our government and country. The novel really was discussing a generation which is long gone and a time which will never be resurrected or many of its core values.
Some of these losses are sad ones.

Bentley
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Choisya
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Re: THEMES: War and Progress - SPOILERS : 'Societal gain'

[ Edited ]
Does the societal gain justify the collateral damage of war, in your opinion?

Potted History: When Britain went to war over the murder of a remote Archduke in 1914, she had been almost continually at war between 1815 and 1902 - The Napoleonic, the Peninsular, the Crimea and the Boer Wars. The White Feather Campaign (encouraged by the Suffragettes:smileysad:) and the huge propaganda campaigns in which emotive posters and postcards were used, can be seen against a background of men not wanting to enlist and their womenfolk being unwilling to lose yet more sons and husbands 'for their country'.

http://www.hullwebs.co.uk/content/l-20c/conflict/ww1/posters/propoganada-posters.htm

As in The Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War - still within living memory - WWI was a war in which 'lions were led by donkeys' and the huge losses - 40 million deaths overall (military and civilian), app 1M from the UK (118K from the US)- affected the lives of the British people, especially women, for more than a generation. It is therefore difficult to see just what the societal gain was especially if we look at the 1930s Great Depression in the US and Europe which followed and the fact that when Britain needed to declare war on Hitler in 1939 she was still suffering from the cost of WWI and was short of both men (not enough young men after WWI = lower birth rate) and armaments - hence her desperate need for US help.

One of the positive outcomes of WWI which perhaps Alfred but not Mr Hamilton might see was that it broke the hold of the aristocracy and the upper class upon ordinary British folk. Two wars where catastrophic losses were occasioned by the incompetence of aristocratic generals and officers who had bought their way into the army, did much to change the political allegiance of ordinary people. It helped to herald in the Liberal government of 1916 and paved the way for the first Labour Government of 1945. WWI was called 'the war to end all wars' because of the terrible losses sustained in Europe. Sadly this did not prove to be the case despite the formation of the Peace Pledge Union and the moving poetry of WWI poets like Wilfrid Owen who, in Dulce Decorum est pro patria mori', spoke against the 'old lie' that it was 'sweet and good' to die for your country. Alfred would probably agree with his sentiments though, having been at the front, possibly in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 where Britain lost 19,240 soldiers on the first day:smileysad:.

It could also be said that another societal gain was that British women gained the vote in 1918. This has often been put down not to the Suffrage and Suffragette campaigns which preceded WWI but to the cooperation of the Suffragettes in the recruitment campaigns and in the excellent work which ordinary women did in the munitions factories during the war, which inclined the post-war Liberal government to 'reward' them.




bentley wrote:

KxBurns wrote:
THEMES threads are for open discussion of themes throughout the entirety of the book. If you're worried about stumbling across spoilers, read no further!

Wars – World War I and II – act as a catalyst for change, both societal and personal, in The House at Riverton. How does war specifically impact the characters in this novel? Do you perceive a gender difference in how the war affects the lives of the characters?

Does the societal gain justify the collateral damage of war, in your opinion? Which characters do you think would agree/disagree with you?

In a greater historical context, how crucial are changing times and values to the course of this narrative?

Karen



Message Edited by Choisya on 01-14-2008 09:09 AM
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dhaupt
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Re: THEMES: War and Progress

The war definitely effected many characters in the book. From the loss of life in the Hartford family to the effect being in battle had on Robbie and Alfred.
I think the biggest effect of this book is the changing times, we go from a society that is mostly autocratic to a more socialist society.
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Iulievich
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Re: THEMES: War and Progress - SPOILERS : 'Societal gain'


Choisya wrote:
Does the societal gain justify the collateral damage of war, in your opinion?

Potted History: When Britain went to war over the murder of a remote Archduke in 1914, she had been almost continually at war between 1815 and 1902 - The Napoleonic, the Peninsular, the Crimea and the Boer Wars. The White Feather Campaign (encouraged by the Suffragettes:smileysad:) and the huge propaganda campaigns in which emotive posters and postcards were used, can be seen against a background of men not wanting to enlist and their womenfolk being unwilling to lose yet more sons and husbands 'for their country'



How cynical we become! How tempting it is to shed the sense of tragedy that hangs over humanity (like the characters in this story) simply by declaring that the problem happened only because those who were in control were a) stupid, b) selfish, c) scheming, etc., etc., etc.

The implicit contention is that if we are just careful, and make sure that only intelligent, far-seeing, and altruistic people (like ourselves) get into power we will never have such problems again. After all, good people like us could never be a) stupid, b) selfish, c) scheming, etc., etc., etc.

History, unfortunately, does not bear this out. So many of the worst atrocities of human history -- and particularly those since 1789 -- have been committed not in the name of protecting a status quo but in the name of rebuilding society into a better form, with those who commit the atrocities justifying them -- as did V.I. Lenin -- with such toss-off phrases as "You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs." It is essential propaganda in such cases to dehumanize the opponent and assert that one's own moral superiority and the interests of the common man ("the people,""the workers,""the little guy,""the Volk" ) trump the human value of those with other ideas.

I do not think, Choisya, that you really meant to imply that the forward-thinking women of Great Britain were really quite so cynical as to be willing to toss a million of their fathers, brothers, sons, and male acquaintances into the chipper-shredder in order to buy the government's support for their political cause. I would have a really hard time with that idea.

Furthermore, Great Britain most certainly did not go to war "over the murder of a remote Archduke." That kind of analysis highlights a problem that Kate Morton refers to in her Author's Notes as "the partial nature of history."

Whether Britain would actually come into the war on the side of France was an open question (and one extremely disturbing to the French government) right up until the last possible moment. In fact, the arrival of British troops in France was sufficiently unexpected for it to be one of the major factors in slowing the German onslaught enough for the French to get a toe-hold and hang on.

Great Britain went to war to protect the neutralitiy of Belgium, with its critical ports on the English Channel opposite Dover. It had been an essential element of British policy since the time of Elizabeth I and the Spanish Armada -- most urgently reinforced in the minds of every responsible Britiish official by the historical memory of the Dutch fleet sailing up the Thames to bombard London during the reign of Charles II. This was not a make-believe or insignificant issue. The safety and security of Englishmen in their own country was at stake.

It was the German General Staff's pretty accurate assessment that Germany could not win a two-front war with France and Russia that required the German army to defeat France in a rapid knock-out blow in time to move its troops east to meet the slower-to-mobilize Russian threat. (The Russians were quite ready to attack Germany's ally Austria "over the murder of a remote Archduke" and Austria's threat to Russian influence in Serbia.) Even then, there was very mixed sentiment in the British governing circles about coming to France's aid in such a situation.

But Feldmarschall von Schliefen saw that the basic plan could not work fast enough to assure German victory in the East if the German assault in the West fell directly on the French-German border. (It was his job to make such analyses and to plan to succeed.) German troops would have to move through the low countries in order to flank French defenses. When they attacked Belgium, the British were in, and I defy anyone to tell me how a British government could have done otherwise at that point.

You see, it is not so much cupidity as it is tragedy. People limit their choices little by little until suddenly the only choices available are all bad. (Again, sort of like the characters in the book we are discussing.)

As to your question about societal gain justifying "collateral damage" (an incorrect use of the term, by the way), it is a strawman question, set up in order to misrepresent the thrust of any opposing opinion and put its proponents on the defensive. Anyone who would actually make such an assertion must be both a fool and a monster.

Perhaps it will be more appropriate to this forum (and certainly very time-saving) to confine our comments on war and progress to The House at Riverton.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an action but a habit." -Aristotle
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Iulievich
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Re: THEMES: War and Progress

[ Edited ]

dhaupt wrote:
The war definitely effected many characters in the book. From the loss of life in the Hartford family to the effect being in battle had on Robbie and Alfred.
I think the biggest effect of this book is the changing times, we go from a society that is mostly autocratic to a more socialist society.




I don't really mean to quibble, but Russian government was autocratic; Russian society, aristocratic. British government and society were both aristocratic, not autocratic.

The political/social change wrought in England by the war was from aristocratic to democratic, not socialist. The 1920's would be a time of considerable democratic reform, but socialism was still far too radical for all but a fringe of the Trade Union Movement. Not that there were not attempts; they just were not going anywhere then.

Indeed, the transition from aristocratic to democratic was far from general, as the ambitions of the Luxtons illustrate.

Message Edited by Iulievich on 01-14-2008 05:23 PM
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an action but a habit." -Aristotle
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vivico1
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Re: THEMES: War and Progress - SPOILERS : 'Societal gain'


Iulievich wrote:

Choisya wrote:
Does the societal gain justify the collateral damage of war, in your opinion?


How cynical we become! How tempting it is to shed the sense of tragedy that hangs over humanity (like the characters in this story) simply by declaring that the problem happened only because those who were in control were a) stupid, b) selfish, c) scheming, etc., etc., etc.

The implicit contention is that if we are just careful, and make sure that only intelligent, far-seeing, and altruistic people (like ourselves) get into power we will never have such problems again. After all, good people like us could never be a) stupid, b) selfish, c) scheming, etc., etc., etc.

.

I do not think, Choisya, that you really meant to imply that the forward-thinking women of Great Britain were really quite so cynical as to be willing to toss a million of their fathers, brothers, sons, and male acquaintances into the chipper-shredder in order to buy the government's support for their political cause. I would have a really hard time with that idea.

Furthermore, Great Britain most certainly did not go to war "over the murder of a remote Archduke." That kind of analysis highlights a problem that Kate Morton refers to in her Author's Notes as "the partial nature of history."

Whether Britain would actually come into the war on the side of France was an open question (and one extremely disturbing to the French government) right up until the last possible moment. In fact, the arrival of British troops in France was sufficiently unexpected for it to be one of the major factors in slowing the German onslaught enough for the French to get a toe-hold and hang on.

Great Britain went to war to protect the neutralitiy of Belgium, with its critical ports on the English Channel opposite Dover. It had been an essential element of British policy since the time of Elizabeth I and the Spanish Armada -- most urgently reinforced in the minds of every responsible Britiish official by the historical memory of the Dutch fleet sailing up the Thames to bombard London during the reign of Charles II. This was not a make-believe or insignificant issue. The safety and security of Englishmen in their own country was at stake.


As to your question about societal gain justifying "collateral damage" (an incorrect use of the term, by the way), it is a strawman question, set up in order to misrepresent the thrust of any opposing opinion and put its proponents on the defensive. Anyone who would actually make such an assertion must be both a fool and a monster.

Perhaps it will be more appropriate to this forum (and certainly very time-saving) to confine our comments on war and progress to The House at Riverton.


Holy Cow and AMEN! wheres the little high five smiley!
Vivian
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Peppermill
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Re: THEMES: War and Progress - SPOILERS : 'Societal gain'

Iulievich -- with all due respect, this question was posed by our moderator:

"Does the societal gain justify the collateral damage of war, in your opinion? Which characters do you think would agree/disagree with you?"

Personally, I take offense at characterizing her or any other participant on this board as "both a fool and a monster." I hope I am grossly misunderstanding what you have posted.


Iulievich wrote {excerpt}:As to your question about societal gain justifying "collateral damage" (an incorrect use of the term, by the way), it is a strawman question, set up in order to misrepresent the thrust of any opposing opinion and put its proponents on the defensive. Anyone who would actually make such an assertion must be both a fool and a monster.

Perhaps it will be more appropriate to this forum (and certainly very time-saving) to confine our comments on war and progress to The House at Riverton.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Iulievich
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Re: THEMES: War and Progress - SPOILERS : 'Societal gain'

[ Edited ]

Peppermill wrote:
Personally, I take offense at characterizing her or any other participant on this board as "both a fool and a monster." I hope I am grossly misunderstanding what you have posted


I am sorry that you have taken offense, but I believe that you have, in fact, grossly misread what I posted.

Taken as written in context, the statement, "Anyone who would actually make such an assertion must be both a fool and a monster," means that anyone who would assert that some societal change subjectivelly defined as "progress" justifies unleashing the demonic forces of destruction attendant upon modern war is both a fool (incapable of rationally balancing benefit against cost) and a monster (willing to inflict that cost upon others as a fair price for hastening societal changes that he finds appealing to himself rather than risk being unable to attain them through civil interaction in the existing order).

Thankfully, I am not aware of anyone in any of these threads who has actually made such an assertion, but should there be such a one who finds the shoe to fit, I am quite comfortable that he (or she) should wear it.

My problem is not with the idea that changes -- many of which are agreeable to some or all -- come about as a result of war or any of the other several varieties of horror that humanity manages to inflict upon itself. My problem is with the idea that these changes justify the process that spawned them.

Are you perhaps familiar with the phenomenon of "the weeping dead?" It seems that soldiers killed in the fury of a Russian winter and frozen beneath the snow will appear to shed tears when the spring comes and their eyes begin to thaw.

Exactly which of the unanticipated side-benefits of war justifies that? Anybody who thinks he has one should personally go and carefully explain to that dead soldier why his life, his potential was worth less than their gratification.

You see, I am not primarily a "literary" person in the sense that I do not devour fiction and poetry, although I thoroughly enjoy good examples of both when I can find them. I am primarily an historian. I have spent more years than the lives of some of our co-readers in excruciatingly close study of history in general and in particular of what Robert Conquest has so aptly called "The Ravaged Century." The curse of the historian is that sooner or later he is apt to come to the realization that the people in his "stories" are real people to whom the kinds of costs that we may casually suggest are "justified" are anything but theoretical. (My gratitude to Elizabeth Kostova for explicating that insight in an under-appreciated book.)

The very suggestion that some improvement during the 1920's in women's rights or workers' rights or the loosening of social structures could justify the Somme or Paschendaele or Verdun is simply too callous to be anything but abhorrent. (No apologies offered.)

Besides, the same frenzy of death and disintegration that spawned such "progress" was equally likely to spawn other changes, many of which might not seem so "progressive."

Message Edited by Iulievich on 01-15-2008 04:44 AM
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an action but a habit." -Aristotle
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Mousegirl
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Re: THEMES: War and Progress - SPOILERS : 'Societal gain'



Iulievich wrote:

Choisya wrote:
Does the societal gain justify the collateral damage of war, in your opinion?

Potted History: When Britain went to war over the murder of a remote Archduke in 1914, she had been almost continually at war between 1815 and 1902 - The Napoleonic, the Peninsular, the Crimea and the Boer Wars. The White Feather Campaign (encouraged by the Suffragettes:smileysad:) and the huge propaganda campaigns in which emotive posters and postcards were used, can be seen against a background of men not wanting to enlist and their womenfolk being unwilling to lose yet more sons and husbands 'for their country'



How cynical we become! How tempting it is to shed the sense of tragedy that hangs over humanity (like the characters in this story) simply by declaring that the problem happened only because those who were in control were a) stupid, b) selfish, c) scheming, etc., etc., etc.

The implicit contention is that if we are just careful, and make sure that only intelligent, far-seeing, and altruistic people (like ourselves) get into power we will never have such problems again. After all, good people like us could never be a) stupid, b) selfish, c) scheming, etc., etc., etc.

History, unfortunately, does not bear this out. So many of the worst atrocities of human history -- and particularly those since 1789 -- have been committed not in the name of protecting a status quo but in the name of rebuilding society into a better form, with those who commit the atrocities justifying them -- as did V.I. Lenin -- with such toss-off phrases as "You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs." It is essential propaganda in such cases to dehumanize the opponent and assert that one's own moral superiority and the interests of the common man ("the people,""the workers,""the little guy,""the Volk" ) trump the human value of those with other ideas.

I do not think, Choisya, that you really meant to imply that the forward-thinking women of Great Britain were really quite so cynical as to be willing to toss a million of their fathers, brothers, sons, and male acquaintances into the chipper-shredder in order to buy the government's support for their political cause. I would have a really hard time with that idea.

Furthermore, Great Britain most certainly did not go to war "over the murder of a remote Archduke." That kind of analysis highlights a problem that Kate Morton refers to in her Author's Notes as "the partial nature of history."

Whether Britain would actually come into the war on the side of France was an open question (and one extremely disturbing to the French government) right up until the last possible moment. In fact, the arrival of British troops in France was sufficiently unexpected for it to be one of the major factors in slowing the German onslaught enough for the French to get a toe-hold and hang on.

Great Britain went to war to protect the neutralitiy of Belgium, with its critical ports on the English Channel opposite Dover. It had been an essential element of British policy since the time of Elizabeth I and the Spanish Armada -- most urgently reinforced in the minds of every responsible Britiish official by the historical memory of the Dutch fleet sailing up the Thames to bombard London during the reign of Charles II. This was not a make-believe or insignificant issue. The safety and security of Englishmen in their own country was at stake.

It was the German General Staff's pretty accurate assessment that Germany could not win a two-front war with France and Russia that required the German army to defeat France in a rapid knock-out blow in time to move its troops east to meet the slower-to-mobilize Russian threat. (The Russians were quite ready to attack Germany's ally Austria "over the murder of a remote Archduke" and Austria's threat to Russian influence in Serbia.) Even then, there was very mixed sentiment in the British governing circles about coming to France's aid in such a situation.

But Feldmarschall von Schliefen saw that the basic plan could not work fast enough to assure German victory in the East if the German assault in the West fell directly on the French-German border. (It was his job to make such analyses and to plan to succeed.) German troops would have to move through the low countries in order to flank French defenses. When they attacked Belgium, the British were in, and I defy anyone to tell me how a British government could have done otherwise at that point.

You see, it is not so much cupidity as it is tragedy. People limit their choices little by little until suddenly the only choices available are all bad. (Again, sort of like the characters in the book we are discussing.)

As to your question about societal gain justifying "collateral damage" (an incorrect use of the term, by the way), it is a strawman question, set up in order to misrepresent the thrust of any opposing opinion and put its proponents on the defensive. Anyone who would actually make such an assertion must be both a fool and a monster.

Perhaps it will be more appropriate to this forum (and certainly very time-saving) to confine our comments on war and progress to The House at Riverton.






Wow... what more is there to say after that? lol! You've said it all, I believe, and very well. :*)
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Choisya
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Re: THEMES: War and Progress - SPOILERS : 'Societal gain'

[ Edited ]
Does the societal gain justify the collateral damage of war, in your opinion?

In a greater historical context how crucial are the changing times and values to the course of this narrative?'



I am sorry you do not approve of the way that I, as an elderly Englishwoman and a lifelong student of both politics and British social history (MA in PSE at the LSE), answered the above questions posted by the Moderator. I nevertheless expressed views which are commonly held and taught over here. The incompetence of the upper-class generals of the Crimea and WWI is well documented, as is the involvement of Emmeline Pankhurst and the Suffragettes in the infamous White Feather Campaign (which my grandmother, a Suffragette, opposed). How careless the generals were of working class lives and how foolish were these women who encouraged not only under-age but sick men to enlist has been commented on not only by the survivors of WWI but by British historians and I am prepared to rest my case with theirs. The play 'Oh What A Lovely War' written by Joan Littlewood in 1963, using WWI archives, also highlights some of the points I have made and was a successful, long running satire, subsequently made into a successful film. It puts forward a viewpoint much in contrast to your own but one with which many Britons have sympathy, particularly those old soldiers who survived the war and who were often interviewed about it until recently, when all but the last one of them sadly died.

I therefore feel justified in putting forward my viewpoint, just as you feel justified in putting forward yours. We must therefore agree to differ.






Iulievich wrote:

Choisya wrote:
Does the societal gain justify the collateral damage of war, in your opinion?

Potted History: When Britain went to war over the murder of a remote Archduke in 1914, she had been almost continually at war between 1815 and 1902 - The Napoleonic, the Peninsular, the Crimea and the Boer Wars. The White Feather Campaign (encouraged by the Suffragettes:smileysad:) and the huge propaganda campaigns in which emotive posters and postcards were used, can be seen against a background of men not wanting to enlist and their womenfolk being unwilling to lose yet more sons and husbands 'for their country'



How cynical we become! How tempting it is to shed the sense of tragedy that hangs over humanity (like the characters in this story) simply by declaring that the problem happened only because those who were in control were a) stupid, b) selfish, c) scheming, etc., etc., etc.

The implicit contention is that if we are just careful, and make sure that only intelligent, far-seeing, and altruistic people (like ourselves) get into power we will never have such problems again. After all, good people like us could never be a) stupid, b) selfish, c) scheming, etc., etc., etc.

History, unfortunately, does not bear this out. So many of the worst atrocities of human history -- and particularly those since 1789 -- have been committed not in the name of protecting a status quo but in the name of rebuilding society into a better form, with those who commit the atrocities justifying them -- as did V.I. Lenin -- with such toss-off phrases as "You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs." It is essential propaganda in such cases to dehumanize the opponent and assert that one's own moral superiority and the interests of the common man ("the people,""the workers,""the little guy,""the Volk" ) trump the human value of those with other ideas.

I do not think, Choisya, that you really meant to imply that the forward-thinking women of Great Britain were really quite so cynical as to be willing to toss a million of their fathers, brothers, sons, and male acquaintances into the chipper-shredder in order to buy the government's support for their political cause. I would have a really hard time with that idea.

Furthermore, Great Britain most certainly did not go to war "over the murder of a remote Archduke." That kind of analysis highlights a problem that Kate Morton refers to in her Author's Notes as "the partial nature of history."

Whether Britain would actually come into the war on the side of France was an open question (and one extremely disturbing to the French government) right up until the last possible moment. In fact, the arrival of British troops in France was sufficiently unexpected for it to be one of the major factors in slowing the German onslaught enough for the French to get a toe-hold and hang on.

Great Britain went to war to protect the neutralitiy of Belgium, with its critical ports on the English Channel opposite Dover. It had been an essential element of British policy since the time of Elizabeth I and the Spanish Armada -- most urgently reinforced in the minds of every responsible Britiish official by the historical memory of the Dutch fleet sailing up the Thames to bombard London during the reign of Charles II. This was not a make-believe or insignificant issue. The safety and security of Englishmen in their own country was at stake.

It was the German General Staff's pretty accurate assessment that Germany could not win a two-front war with France and Russia that required the German army to defeat France in a rapid knock-out blow in time to move its troops east to meet the slower-to-mobilize Russian threat. (The Russians were quite ready to attack Germany's ally Austria "over the murder of a remote Archduke" and Austria's threat to Russian influence in Serbia.) Even then, there was very mixed sentiment in the British governing circles about coming to France's aid in such a situation.

But Feldmarschall von Schliefen saw that the basic plan could not work fast enough to assure German victory in the East if the German assault in the West fell directly on the French-German border. (It was his job to make such analyses and to plan to succeed.) German troops would have to move through the low countries in order to flank French defenses. When they attacked Belgium, the British were in, and I defy anyone to tell me how a British government could have done otherwise at that point.

You see, it is not so much cupidity as it is tragedy. People limit their choices little by little until suddenly the only choices available are all bad. (Again, sort of like the characters in the book we are discussing.)

As to your question about societal gain justifying "collateral damage" (an incorrect use of the term, by the way), it is a strawman question, set up in order to misrepresent the thrust of any opposing opinion and put its proponents on the defensive. Anyone who would actually make such an assertion must be both a fool and a monster.

Perhaps it will be more appropriate to this forum (and certainly very time-saving) to confine our comments on war and progress to The House at Riverton.



Message Edited by Choisya on 01-15-2008 10:51 AM

Message Edited by Choisya on 01-15-2008 10:58 AM
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Re: THEMES: War and Progress - SPOILERS : 'Societal gain'

Thankyou Peppermill, that is so and I was also try to address the question posed at the end of Karen's post 'In a greater historical context how crucial are the changing themes and values to the course of this narrative.'

I certainly do not think anyone was a 'fool and a monster' but I do think that a lot of misjudgements were made without due regard to life and limb - both the accounts of the Charge of the Light Brigade and the Battles of the Somme/Passchendale attest to that, let alone encouraging (and allowing) the under-age and the sick to enlist.





Peppermill wrote:
Iulievich -- with all due respect, this question was posed by our moderator:

"Does the societal gain justify the collateral damage of war, in your opinion? Which characters do you think would agree/disagree with you?"

Personally, I take offense at characterizing her or any other participant on this board as "both a fool and a monster." I hope I am grossly misunderstanding what you have posted.


Iulievich wrote {excerpt}:As to your question about societal gain justifying "collateral damage" (an incorrect use of the term, by the way), it is a strawman question, set up in order to misrepresent the thrust of any opposing opinion and put its proponents on the defensive. Anyone who would actually make such an assertion must be both a fool and a monster.

Perhaps it will be more appropriate to this forum (and certainly very time-saving) to confine our comments on war and progress to The House at Riverton.



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Re: THEMES: War and Progress


KxBurns wrote:
THEMES threads are for open discussion of themes throughout the entirety of the book. If you're worried about stumbling across spoilers, read no further!

Wars – World War I and II – act as a catalyst for change, both societal and personal, in The House at Riverton. How does war specifically impact the characters in this novel? Do you perceive a gender difference in how the war affects the lives of the characters?

Does the societal gain justify the collateral damage of war, in your opinion? Which characters do you think would agree/disagree with you?

In a greater historical context, how crucial are changing times and values to the course of this narrative?

Karen




Well.

I don't have a degree in history, but I enjoyed reading the opposing viewpoints on this topic. Personally, I don't mind a discussion that has some dissention--it helps me to understand and hone my own opinions. I liked the comment Grace makes in the book that wars make history seem simple ...they are the "turning points." You folks are reminding us that there is NOTHING simple about history!

To me, the book was enjoyable without having an understanding of all the historical and political nuances of the setting.

Something Everyman said in one of the chapter threads came to my mind when I saw the topic of this thread. He said that the character of Alfred (and I will now add Robbie) is a more tragic storyline because we see the effects of the war in his life. David and the Major die in battle before we even really get to know them. But we see Alfred and Robbie struggling with PTSD (or whatever you want to call it).

Just to add to Everyman's comments...

While the effect of the war ON David ends with his death, THROUGH that death the war affects many other lives. It leaves Hannah the eldest child, which leads to her marrying Teddy, it brings Robbie and Hannah together, it increases the sense of abandonment Emmeline feels...

It reminded me that the presence of people can have great influence on our lives, but so can the hole they leave when they are gone.

If we think about the long-ranging effects the death of ONE person has, or the PTSD of ONE person, and then multiply that times the millions that are also killed or injured...it is easy to see how history gets complicated!

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Re: THEMES: War and Progress


bookhunter wrote {excerpt}: ....To me, the book was enjoyable without having an understanding of all the historical and political nuances of the setting....

Ann -- I quite agree! My first hours with HAR were what I still call "Thorn Bird" time! (As I have said elsewhere The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough is the standard for me against which I have measured good reads for the past thirty years -- I would love to hear what others consider their penultimate example of a "good read." )

However, I must give Ms. Morton credit for peaking my limited knowledge of history. Although they are WWII rather than WWI, I started watching the PBS series on "The War". They are not going to be easy listening/ watching, but I am grateful for the prodding HAR has provided, with its allusions to Gertrude Bell (partitioning of the Middle East), the impressions of "ugly" Americans (there are several, the episode that comes to mind now is the American boy playing in the fountain and rudely jumping to the ground near Grace during the tour of Riverton -- p. 429), recruiting techniques, shell shock, unions, "the lost generation," ... When did the transitions to "modern warfare" occur and what were the implications?

Is Grace wise when she says: "...Make him understand that time is the master of perspective. A dispassionate master, breathtakingly efficient...."? p. 447. Or do we fool ourselves?
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Re: THEMES: War and Progress



Peppermill wrote:
Is Grace wise when she says: "...Make him understand that time is the master of perspective. A dispassionate master, breathtakingly efficient...."? p. 447. Or do we fool ourselves?




Is she saying that time makes perspective less "truthful" or more? In the paragraph she is speaking to Marcus's greiving...time will give him perspective on that. But in terms of history, I am not sure that time makes our perspective on events more truthful. The passionate feelings of the moment may subside, but then we start to color the events with everything that happens since.

Ann, bookhunter
(who has certainly taken my turn as the gawking American tourist)
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Re: THEMES: War and Progress (Good read)

As I re-read this, I realize I probably need to explain what I mean by "a good read" in this context. "Good read" is a book that I don't put aside until it gets read -- I allow it get in the way of all the things that "should be done" until I have completed it. It does not mean a whole lot of other things that "good read" could imply.

Peppermill wrote {excerpt}:... My first hours with HAR were what I still call "Thorn Bird" time! (As I have said elsewhere The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough is the standard for me against which I have measured good reads for the past thirty years -- I would love to hear what others consider their penultimate example of a "good read." )
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Re: THEMES: War and Progress

[ Edited ]

bookhunter wrote {ed.}:

Peppermill wrote: Is Grace wise when she says: "...Make him understand that time is the master of perspective. A dispassionate master, breathtakingly efficient...."? p. 447. Or do we fool ourselves?

Is she saying that time makes perspective less "truthful" or more? In the paragraph she is speaking to Marcus's grieving... time will give him perspective on that. But in terms of history, I am not sure that time makes our perspective on events more truthful. The passionate feelings of the moment may subside, but then we start to color the events with everything that happens since.

Ann, bookhunter
(who has certainly taken my turn as the gawking American tourist)
Ann, I agree with your question and don't know which Grace is saying. Perhaps both.

Another way of saying this may be: We have only the present. The only past that still exists is that perceived in the present.

I'm also uncertain how much perspective time gives to grieving ... or guilt?

Message Edited by Peppermill on 01-15-2008 03:19 PM
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Re: THEMES: War and Progress (Good read)


Peppermill wrote:
As I re-read this, I realize I probably need to explain what I mean by "a good read" in this context. "Good read" is a book that I don't put aside until it gets read -- I allow it get in the way of all the things that "should be done" until I have completed it. It does not mean a whole lot of other things that "good read" could imply.

Peppermill wrote {excerpt}:... My first hours with HAR were what I still call "Thorn Bird" time! (As I have said elsewhere The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough is the standard for me against which I have measured good reads for the past thirty years -- I would love to hear what others consider their penultimate example of a "good read." )



I got what you meant Pepper, thats the same meaning for me of a good read. I have some good reads and then also I have some GREAT books, both I cant put down till I am finished but whether it is a great book, I am often not sure till the end lol. But yep a good read is one you just cant put down. I find in fiction, I am hooked on Harlan Coben, all his books so far are good reads and great suspense or mystery books and I NEVER guess his ending till it happens, and maybe thats what I am comparing this book against and why altho its considered a mystery, its just not to me. Good story in there among some things that muddle it, but not a really good mystery, because so much is revealed before it happens. As for if someone asked me what was the best book you have read in awhile, I would have to say THE ROAD, such a gut wrenching, moving book and great great writing.
Vivian
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Re: THEMES: War and Progress - SPOILERS : 'Societal gain'


Choisya wrote:
I am sorry you do not approve of the way that I, as an elderly Englishwoman and a lifelong student of both politics and British social history (MA in PSE at the LSE), answered the above questions posted by the Moderator. I nevertheless expressed views which are commonly held and taught over here.


I have always been taught that it is impolite, unwise, and irrelevant to cite one's academic credentials as evidence for the authority of one's statements. Impolite for obvious reasons, unwise because you risk understimating the credentials of the person to whom you cite them, and irrelevant because being "educated" does not mean that one has learned anything, only that he has been told something.

My own dissertation professor had his Ph.D. from a world-renowned university that will go nameless for now. He often told me that most of the fools he had known during his life had Ph.D.'s from that university. Perhaps it was just the company that he kept.:smileywink: I am confident that such is absolutely not the case for those who hold Master of Arts in (I am guessing) Political Science and Economics from (I am assuming) The London School of Economics. Although I must admit that one of the sloppiest professors of German history that I ever studied under had spent four years teaching at that particular LSE before coming to our institution.

As to the views "commonly held and taught:"
1. In this country "commonly held and taught" means, with distressing regularity, "dead wrong," particularly in the presence of any sort of political agenda. Not that there are not elements of truth in it. It has often been observed quite accurately that for a heresy to survive it must contain a significant element of truth. But, as an old Jewish saying would put it, "A half truth is still a whole lie."

2. I am terribly disillusioned to find the teaching of history in Great Britain to have sunk to levels similar to those "enjoyed" in this country.

I suppose that, in the end, we will indeed have to agree to disagree -- if onlly because ...
1. We have strayed too far from the subject at hand. We were discussing, I believe, a book of fiction.
2. It is really rather wearying.
Perhaps if I am back in London, we can meet and "make up" over a pint. There used to be a nice pub that served White Horse just next door (or very near) to the LSE bookstore.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an action but a habit." -Aristotle
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Re: THEMES: War and Progress (Good read)

[ Edited ]

vivico1 wrote:..I got what you meant Pepper, thats the same meaning for me of a good read. I have some good reads and then also I have some GREAT books, both I cant put down till I am finished but whether it is a great book, I am often not sure till the end lol. But yep a good read is one you just cant put down. I find in fiction, I am hooked on Harlan Coben, all his books so far are good reads and great suspense or mystery books and I NEVER guess his ending till it happens, and maybe thats what I am comparing this book against and why altho its considered a mystery, its just not to me. Good story in there among some things that muddle it, but not a really good mystery, because so much is revealed before it happens. As for if someone asked me what was the best book you have read in awhile, I would have to say THE ROAD, such a gut wrenching, moving book and great great writing.
Vivian -- I don't know Harlan Coben at all -- another name to add to my go exploring list.

I checked both BLOOD MERIDIAN and THE ROAD out of the library, but needed to take them back before they got off my to be read stack. THE ROAD has received so much comment that I did skim it, and I can see that it will probably be gut wrenching. I guess I shall have to purchase my own copy.

Message Edited by Peppermill on 01-15-2008 03:40 PM
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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