“Good-bye to All That” by Robert Graves Robert Graves depi?ts the dramati? and somewhat frightening memories of his days in World War I in his autobiography, Good-bye to All That. Without ever being absorbed in a war, it is hard to understand the horrifi? and tense events that take pla?e. As with any story, it is easier to pi?ture and understand what o??urs when there is eviden?e to support the narrative. By in?luding letters, arti?les, and newspaper ?uttings, Graves is ?apable of giving the reader a better understanding of his war experien?e. Extra?ts from some of Graves’ letters that he writes in 1915 give the readers a possibility to better understand the soldiers’ lives during the war. These letters are part of a ?ompilation of indi?ation detailing the everyday a?tivities of the soldiers. Within these letters, Graves ?reates vivid images of life in the tren?hes so that the reader ?an have a ?learer pi?ture of what the soldiers are fa?ing. In the letter from May 28th, Graves des?ribes how his “ears sang as though there were gnats in them, and a bright s?arlet light shone over everything” after a shell drops right beside him (Graves, 112). It is hard to understand how dangerous and terrifying the war is, but with these letters Graves is able to make it a little easier to understand. These letters are very relevant to this book be?ause they bring the reader ?loser to what Graves goes through in the war. His behaviour after the war is the result of what he fa?es as a soldier. It be?omes a part of everyday life to stand over the ?orpses of fellow soldiers and the site of blood is very ?ommon, whi?h he refle?ts in his gruesome des?riptions. (White, 2000) Robert Graves depi?ts the British so?iety at the time as hypo?riti?al and false through the instan?es of his ?hildhood somewhat ironi? memories when he attended ?harterhouse (his s?hool). He remarked in the 1920s that not many of the fellow pupils who looked like future stars turned out that way, although admittedly in his generation’s ?ase, a world war influen?ed the out?ome. S?hoolmasters looked like oilers and greasers. In later life, a ?ertain number of paid posts are available as ?ourtiers to kings and ty?oons, who ?herish su?h folk. But there are simply not enough of them to provide a living for every ex-s?
hool prefe?t on the market. One promising lad whom he knew, named Sturgess, be?ame a pilot, and was entrusted with taking a revolutionary-new bomber to Fran?e for the Royal Flying ?orps. Sturgess duly set about this but, by a small navigational error, made a perfe?t landing on a German airfield. This put a ?ertain tarnish on his lustre. Robert Graves implied with ?ontempt for the ?hampions of s?hool: The stout tall ?aptain, whose superior size. The minor heroes view with envious eyes. Be?omes their pattern, upon whi?h they fix their whole attention, and ape all his tri?ks. (Gardner, 2000) It is important to stress that Graves point is that early in publi? s?hools of Britain headmasters and headmistresses are poor pi?kers of people. The qualities, whi?h enable people to shine at s?hool - espe?ially ?onformity and a supine willingness to go along with the system - are most unlikely to get them to the top afterwards. (Leed, 1996) Robert Graves implied wisely that the great mistake s?hooltea?hers make is to promote pupils who will make their own tiny universe ti?k along smoothly, regardless of the fa?t that s?hool is quite unlike anything in later life. “Every headmaster,” wrote Graves, “is in?lined to think that as long as all's fair in his own little garden, he has su??eeded. When later he sees what some of his old boys have turned into, he seldom realises that the very apparent perfe?tion he was so proud of is partly responsible.” (Leed, 1996) Graves shows that a good reason for applauding the rise of the ?lassless so?iety is that in the old days, all sorts of boys and some girls who were not mu?h use at anything were found employment in the ?ity of London for no better reason than that they had attended well-known publi? s?hools. They were assumed to be gentlemen or ladies. And that was not quite ?orre?t. In “Good-bye to All That” Graves is ?learly showing that “?onformist” s?hoolboys and girls were to wat?h for are the troublemakers, the bounders, the awkward squad. At the same time he is sure that anyone ?apable of resistan?e in a s?hool, where those in ?harge possess powers of perse?
ution and repression that will never be mat?hed in later life, are by far the most likely to do something interesting afterwards. The strongest obje?tion to the prefe?t system in “Good-bye to All That” is that, espe?ially in publi? s?hools of the Great War Britain, it pla?ed absurdly extravagant authority in the possession of people far too immature to wield it responsibly. “The innumerable forms of minor torture, bullying and mis?hief whi?h boys ?an serve to boys,” noted Graves “have been written about too mu?h be?ause of the deep impression they make on the infant mind. For many of us, the best thing to be said in favour of a British publi? s?hool edu?ation is that on?e it is over, nothing ?an be so bad again.” Robert Graves, as a veteran of World War I, dis?usses the ?onnotations of “Blighty” in Goodbye to All That. With typi?al straightness, he qualifies the enthusiasm of Brophy and Partridge by suggesting that an English soldier’s relationship to Britain’s government and establishment is as likely to be tense and ?ompli?ated as it is to be sentimental. Homesi?kness, a??ording to Graves, may even be la?ed with hostility: “As ‘Blighty’, a geographi?al ?on?ept, Great Britain was a quiet, easy pla?e for getting ba?k to out of the present foreign misery; but as a nation it in?luded not only the tren?h-soldiers themselves and those who had gone home wounded, but the staff, Army Servi?e ?orps, lines of ?ommuni?ation troops, base units, home-servi?e units, and all ?ivilians down to the detested grades of journalists, profiteers, ‘starred’ men exempted from enlistment, ?ons?ientious obje?tors, and members of the Government” (Bergonzi, 1999). From Graves’s des?ription of this “?arefully graded ?aste-system of honour,” there begins to emerge the ?omplexity of what Brophy and Partridge ?all a soldier’s “homesi?kness and affe?tion and war-weariness”: men exempted from enlistment are deemed slightly better than ?ons?ientious obje?tors but somewhat worse than the detested journalists, and so on.” Yet what is striking in Graves’s ?omment is not so mu?h the spe?ifi?s of hierar?hy as the intense ambivalen?e upon whi?h they are shown. He takes as a given that patriotism is far from monolithi?
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and that antagonism is not reserved for belligerents of the opposing ?ountry. But the main theme of “Good-bye to All That” still remains the war and its impa?t on a person in parti?ular and so?iety at whole. Graves wants to enlighten the readers about the horrors of life in the tren?hes, whi?h he a?hieves by using these letters. In the May 28th letter he depi?ts that “the parapet of a tren?h…is built up with ammunition-boxes and ?orpses. Everything here is wet and smelly” (Graves 111). Although Graves ?ould tell his story without these letters, they make the story more personal and give the reader a ?learer pi?ture of life as a soldier. Graves use of the arti?les in his autobiography shows the effe?t the war has on the ?ivilians and some soldiers. The arti?le, “A Mother’s Answer to ‘A ?ommon Soldier’”, des?ribes a mother’s proud attitude about her son fighting, whi?h seems very disturbing, yet the extra?ts and press ?riti?isms praise the arti?le. Graves uses this arti?le to show the diffi?ulty of ?ommuni?ation with ?ivilians that he and other soldiers “were fa?ing” be?ause the stories about the war that the ?ivilians know are different from those a?tually happening (Graves 228). It is disturbing be?ause this parti?ular mother degrades her son as a human being by ?ommenting that the women “pass on the human ammunition of ‘only sons’ to fill up the gaps…” (Graves 229). How ?an she refer to her son as “ammunition” (Graves 229)? This is a result of the ?ivilians not truthfully knowing how the soldiers suffer, be?ause the government doesn’t ?orre?tly inform them about the vi?ious fighting that is o??urring. The mothers’ pride is refle?ted when she mentions “the ?orn that will wave over land watered by the blood” of their “brave lads” (Graves 228). Would this sense of pride still exist if she knew what her son was going through everyday? “Finished With the War” is an arti?le displaying one soldier’s frustration and anger towards the war. Throughout his autobiography, Graves ridi?ules the government for their repeated false information to the ?ivilians about the war. Graves’s use of do?uments in his autobiography better illustrates various aspe?ts of life in World War I.
The letters serve as a sour?e of eviden?e for Graves’ story as he des?ribes the horrors and disillusionment of his days in the war. The arti?les, whi?h are written from two different views of the war, illustrate the effe?ts of the Great War on those involved and the feelings that over?ome them be?ause of what they are fa?ing either as a ?ivilian or a soldier. This fatuity of the government during the time of the war is evident through the newspaper ?uttings that Graves ?riti?izes be?ause of their exaggeration of the news that is to inform the ?ivilians of what is happening. As the author re?overed from his ordeal in the tren?hes, he saw that the ?ivilian people had little understanding of the brutality and stupidity of the war. He also realises that the publi? was being systemati?ally misled by the government and the press. Graves put his disillusionment into one of our ?entury’s finest autobiographies, “Good-bye to All That”. The book’s title refers to Graves’s progress during and after the war. In order to over?ome both the physi?al and psy?hologi?al wounds in?urred during the war, Graves had to meti?ulously understand and distan?e himself from the values of his ?ulture. Rather than be?oming overpowered by a harmful ?ulture, Robert Graves dis?overs a probing, questioning, and psy?hologi?ally positive attitude toward Western values and ?ulture. Moreover, he expresses his own vi?tories in a spare, ?ontrolled prose that is espe?ially appropriate for examining the rough fa?e of twentieth ?entury existen?e. Shorn of all sentimentality and fanati?ism, Graves shows with great ?orre?tness the brutality of tren?h warfare and depi?ts with great dignity the long-term psy?hologi?al damage to the people who experien?ed some of the twentieth ?entury’ worst moments.
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