The American Civil War : 1860-1865 photo

The American Civil War : 1861-1865

The American Civil War started with the secession crisis on April 12, 1861 and ended up with the assassination of Lincoln and the abolition of slavery on May 9, 1865. It transformed the political, economical and social life of the nation.

It first began with a constitutional struggle and then became a test of federal authority but soon took a broader dimension. The initial belief it would be short proved tragically to be mistaken.

The seceding states fought to achieve independence and yet, they closely modeled the government of their Confederacy on the American one. Lincoln’s administration responded with a crusade to preserve the union and expanded its war aims to include the destruction of slavery and the liberation of all black slaves.

In the end, the Union had been preserved and questions left unresolved had been answered at a very high cost in human terms: 600 000 lives, which is still the largest number of fatality in any American war (it was worse than Vietnam).

The Civil War: the story of a secession

The secession started in South Carolina, which withdrew from the Union. It was a direct response to Lincoln’s election. That decision was taken in December 1860. In less than 6 weeks, the other 6 states of the “Lower South” had also seceded: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.

That decision was not really surprising because there were a Southern nationalism and a popular ideal in the South that has existed in the 1850s: the South had its own destiny and could exist as a separate nation.

Some Southerners argued that their section would prosper more outside the Union once free of taxes and tariffs, which increased the costs of their goods to foreign purchasers.

There was also a general atmosphere of anxiousness in the South, full of conspirational theories by 1860: Southerners were paranoid toward the North, perceiving the growing trend of abolitionism as a threat to their way of life.

The last event that quickened the War was the political victory of the Republican Party: Lincoln was elected in 1860 without winning any of the Southern states. It was perceived as a provocation.

On the 4th of March 1861, Lincoln took the oath and became President. Less than a month passed before the creation of a Confederacy from the part of the South.

In February 1861, a new national entity was created: the Confederate States of America, composed of Southern states. They selected Jefferson Davis, a Mississippi cotton planter as their leader. The feeling of secession was not general. There was still a strong opposition (especially from businessmen) to preserve the Union.

In the winter 1860-1861 lots of schemes for re(conciliation) were proposed but they failed. In his inaugural address a s President, Lincoln appealed the South to stay in the Union. He said he would not interfere with slavery but would not allow them to break the United States by seceding. The South did not answer.

On April 12th 1861, the Confederate States opened fire on Fort Sumter (South Carolina). It marked the beginning of the Civil War.

On April 15th, Lincoln proclaimed that an “insurrection” existed in the South. Since army regulars numbered only 60 000, Lincoln called on the Loyal States to raise 75 000 militiamen to serve for 3 months. Soon followed a call for 42 000 state troopers for 3 years. Later, the congress authorized the President to enlist 500 000 volunteers for 3 years.

The call to arms rallied support of Lincoln in the North but also tested the loyalty of the states bordering slave states. As a result, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina seceded, strengthening the Confederacy.

The capital of the South was moved from Montgomery to Richmond. In 4 other slave states – Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri and Maryland – unionist sentiments proved strong enough to avoid secession. After the Northern and Southern calls to arms, volunteers rushed forwards in thousands in both sides.

The decision was hard to make and it sometimes split whole families (3 of Lincoln’s own brothers-in-law died for the South). The first month, the Union blockaded harbors in the South to prevent the Confederation from selling its cotton abroad and from obtaining foreign supplies.

The Forces in opposition

The superiority of the Union was great in terms of human and physical resources. The population of the Loyal states was 20 700 000 people while the total population of the 17 states composing the Confederacy was 9 100 000, of whom 3 500 000 were black slaves.

The roads and railways, factories and businesses, banking capital and investment and food suppliers were vastly superior in the Loyal states. The North grew more food crops than the South and had more than 5 times the manufacturing capacity (including weapon factories). So the North seemed to be far more superior than the South before the War.

In order to offset the North, the South expected to rely on cotton factories and industries. Moreover, the North had to face a major difficulty: the only way the North could win the War was to invade the South, which only had to hold out and to wait till the North grew tired of fighting.

One major asset of the South was the number of trained military leaders who had attended West Point and who organized the Southern army. Furthermore, most battles took place in the South.

In terms of morale, the Confederate soldiers were defending their land/home and fought with spirit. The South denied they were fighting mainly to preserve slavery: most Southerners had no slaves and were poor farmers.

They were attached to the land, fighting for their independence from the North, just as their grand-parents had fought for their independence against Britain. It explains how valiant they were.

The War took place in 2 areas: Virginia and the Mississippi Valley. Lincoln settled on 3 objectives:

  1. the capture of Richmond
  2. the blockade of the harbors of the Confederation
  3. the control of the Mississippi River

“On to Richmond !” was the motto. In Virginia, during the first year, the Union army knew defeat after defeat and was thrown back with heavy losses.

The Confederate forces had 3 advantages:

  1. the topography: land and rivers
  2. the distance for forces to reach the battlefields : they had to travel dozens of miles while the Union forces had to travel hundreds
  3. the quality of the leaders with Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. Jackson, nicknamed “Stonewall” for he stood firm against unionists and did not move an inch. They showed much more skilled than the Union generals.

The North’s early defeats in Virginia discouraged its supporters. As a consequence, the flood of volunteers began to dry out. The first defeats took place in Bull Run and in Antietam in September 1862. Antietam was the bloodiest single day battle of the War with 4 500 casualties and 18 500 people injured.

In the Mississippi Valley, the Union forces had more success. In April 1862, an officer called David Farragut sailed Union ships into the mouth of the river and captured New Orleans.

At the same time, other Union forces were fighting their way from the North. By Spring 1863, the Union armies were closing in on an important confederate stronghold called Vicksburg.

On July 4th, after much bloody fighting and a siege lasting six weeks, Vicksburg capitulated and surrendered to the Union army led by General Ulysses S. Grant. That fall was a heavy blow to the South because Union forces now controlled the whole length of the Mississippi. They had split the Confederacy into two and it became impossible to Western confederate states like Texas to send anymore men or supplies to the East.

Yet, by 1863, many Northern abolitionists were tired of the war, sickened by its heavy cost in lives and money. General Lee believed that if his army could win a decisive victory on North soil, the popular opinion might force the Union government to make peace. In the last week of June 1863, Lee marched his army North into Pennsylvania. A Union army blocked his way at a small town named Gettysburg.

The battle which followed was the biggest ever fought in the US: it marked a turning point for the Confederacy. In three days of fighting, more than 50 000 men were killed or wounded. On the 4th day, Lee broke off the battle and led his men back into the South: the Confederacy had suffered the most terrible defeat of the South, from which it would never recover.

Another important event is Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on November 19th 1863. Lincoln had realized in 1862 that the North would only win the war if he could arouse more enthusiasm for his cause.

That is why he issued the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, which declares that -from January 1st 1863-, “all persons held as slaves…shall be then…forever free”. All slaves were to be free, but only if they lived in the States belonging to the Confederacy.

It changed the purpose of the war: first, it was a struggle to preserve the union, then a struggle to abolish slavery.

A Northern victory

By 1864, the Confederacy was running out of almost everything: men, equipment, money, food. The union armies moved in to end the war in Fall 1864. In November, the Union army led by General Sherman began to march through Georgia. Its soldiers destroyed everything on their path: they burnt crops and buildings and torn up railroad tracks.

On December 22nd, The Union army occupied the city of Savannah and split again East from West. Then Sherman turned North, marched through the Carolinas as he made for Richmond. “Total War” is the worst aspect of the war for it consists in inflicting horrors to the civilian population. The reason is obvious: to quicken the end of the war and to break the South’s will to resist.

Richmond was already in danger with Grant’s army: by March 1865, Grant had almost encircled the city. On April 2nd, Lee was forced to abandon it in order to save his army from being trapped and marched South, hoping to fight from a higher position. But Grant followed close behind and blocked him.

April 9th 1965: Lee met Grant in a tiny mini village called Appomatox (Virginia). Lee surrendered his army and Grant treated the defeated Confederate soldiers generously. After they had given up their weapons and promised never again to fight against the USA, Grant allowed them to go home: “the war is over. The rebels are our countrymen again.” (Grant).


The war put an end to slavery everywhere in the USA and contributed to the elaboration of the 13th Amendment in the American Constitution. Finally, the war decided that the US was one nation whose parts could not be separated. But it left bitter memories.

The US weighed other wars later but all the wars it was engaged in took place outside its own boundaries. The American Civil War caused terrible distractions at home. In this war, more Americans died than in any other war before or since: 635 000 casualties.

Deux semaines en Thaïlande : train de la mort, pont de la rivière Kwaï et Bangkok photo 12

Deux semaines en Thaïlande : train de la mort, pont de la rivière Kwaï et Bangkok

Nous embarquons dans le bus pour 2h30 de trajet et arrivons vers 10h30 à la gare de Kanchanaburi. Au programme, une virée en train sur la ligne de chemin de fer de la mort. Rien à voir avec un train fantôme ou une descente à pic dans le train de la mine.

C’est à son histoire que cette ligne doit son nom funeste: elle a été construite pendant la seconde guerre mondiale par des prisonniers de guerre JEATH (from Japan, England, Australia, America, Thaïland, and Holland).

A cause de la maladie et des mauvais traitements qui leur ont été infligés durant la construction, des milliers d’hommes ont péri. Chaque traverse de chemin de fer représente un mort et la voie en compte plus de seize mille.

Nous embarquons dans le train (c’est la journée train !) et cours de notre itinéraire qui traverse rizières, plaines brûlées et champs de manioc.

Nous passons sur le fameux pont, rivière Kwaï d’un coté, flanc de falaise de l’autre.

Le trajet dure 1h30 dans la pampa thaï – ce qui un peu longuet étant donné que le passage sur le pont dure à peine quelques secondes.

Visite des ruines du sanctuaire cambodgien (khmer) de Muang Sing.

Arrivée a l’hôtel, situé au milieu de nulle part. On se jette dans l’immense piscine qui se trouve dans un parc donnant sur le rivière Kwaï. C’est superbe.

Ensuite, c’est soirée moustique : nous dinons sur la terrasse de l’hôtel et les moustiques virevoltent dans tous les sens, certains se crashant même dans notre curry.

Après une heure de bataille à se claquer les cuisses, nous capitulons et rejoignons notre chambre. L’anti moustique Insectes Écran semble les faire rigoler, tout comme le bracelet à la citronnelle.

Le lendemain, nous retournons au pont de la rivière Kwaï pour l’emprunter à pied, flâner au marché, visiter le musée de la guerre et parcourir la rivière en pirogue rapide à moteur.

C’est la pirogue la plus rapide au bord de laquelle nous ayons embarqué. Nous filons à fond les ballons, grisés par la vitesse.

Vient ensuite la visite très intéressante de deux cimetières situés à côté, le cimetière thaï et le cimetière de guerre anglais. Nous nous perdons parmi les tombes des civils thaïs et chinois, réunies en un seul lieu, mais pourtant bien distinctes.

Les tombes thaïes ont la forme d’un chedi, tandis que les chinoises sont des stèles gravées. Des détritus jonchent le sol et l’entretien des tombes laisse à désirer, ce qui contraste pleinement avec le cimetière anglais, juste à côté.


Les tombes sont bien alignées, fleuries et la pelouse est très bien tondue, détail qui réjouit considérablement Matt ! Nous apprécions cette petite promenade matinale : le silence des lieux nous apaise et nous ressentons la proximité de trois cultures pourtant très différentes.

Vient alors l’heure du déjeuner au restaurant. Nous prenons ensuite la route de Bangkok.

Nous parvenons à notre hôtel vers 15h30 et une fois n’est pas coutume, cet après-midi, nous n’avons pas de programme imposé. Nous apprécions vraiment de pouvoir prendre du temps pour nous : sieste, nage dans la piscine, etc.

Nous décidons également de ne pas dîner au restaurant de l’hôtel avec notre groupe, mais d’aller découvrir Bangkok par nos propres moyens. Et puis,c’est l’occasion unique de fêter mes 26 ans ! Nous partons en fin d’après-midi et allons flâner et boire une bière au marché de nuit Asiatique The Riverfront, lieu branché de la capitale.

Peu à peu, la faim nous prend: nous feuilletons notre guide, repérons un resto qui nous tente dans le quartier de Silom et nous y rendons en taxi. Pour éviter les arnaques fréquentes lorsqu’on est touriste et que l’on connaît mal la ville, nous choisissons de prendre un “taxi-meter” équipé d’un compteur, plutôt qu’un taxi ou un “tuk-tuk”.

Le resto est vraiment extra: une terrasse calme et arborée, une ambiance sympathique, et une cuisine thaïe excellente. Matt se souviendra longtemps de son canard ! Et puis, la chaleur de l’air ambiant en dépit de l’heure tardive, rend cette soirée vraiment agréable.

Il est déjà 23h ! Nous retournons à l’hôtel en taxi et ce pour 60 bahts pour couvrir 4 kilomètres ! (1,50 €).

Demain, direction la plage, à Pattaya !

Anatoly Petrov - Polygon (1978) photo

Anatoly Petrov – Polygon (1978)

Quelque chose de radicalement différent aujourd’hui : un court-métrage d’animation russe réalisé par Anatoly Petrov en 1978, basé sur une histoire de science fiction militaire anti-guerre de Sever Gansovsky :

Dans un future pas trop lointain, un scientifique d’une grande puissance militaire chercher à venger son fils (mort au combat pendant la guerre) et invente donc une arme capable de mettre fin au conflit.

Il s’agitun tank automatisé capable de lire les pensées et qui réagit à certaines émotions humaines comme l’hostilité ou la peur.

Les personnages du film ont des visages très proches des célébrités de l’époque : on pourra reconnaître Ringo Starr, Jean Gabin, Paul Newman, Yul Brynner ou Mel Ferrer entre autres.

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Le squelette de Richard III retrouvé sous les fondations d'un parking à Leicester photo

Le squelette de Richard III retrouvé sous les fondations d’un parking à Leicester

Des archéologues affirment que les restes du corps qui ont été excavés en dessous d’un parking à Leicester le 4 février 2013 appartiennent au roi anglais Richard III.


Le squelette, retrouvé en septembre 2012, présente au niveau de la colonne vertébrale des signes de scoliose, que Richard III avait certainement, et des blessures de guerre qui correspondent aux récits de la mort de Richard III au cours de la Guerre des Deux-Roses.

C’est ce qui a poussé les archéologues à demander des tests plus poussés afin de vérifier son identité.

Les chercheurs de l’Université de Leicester ont donc conduit une série de tests, dont un test de l’ADN extrait d’une dent et d’un os de Michael Ibsen, un descendant actuel de la soeur de Richard III, Anne of York.

Ce test a confirmé la relation génétique entre l’ADN d’Ibsen et celui du squelette. Ces restes sont donc bien ceux de Richard III.

Richard III et la Guerre des Deux-Roses

Richard III est né en 1452 et a gouverné l’Angleterre de 1483 à 1485. Son règne se termina par sa mort à la bataille de Bosworth Field, la bataille finale dans la guerre civile anglaise que l’on connait sous le nom de Guerre des Deux-Roses, opposant la maison royale de Lancastre à la maison royale d’York.

La guerre prend fin en 1485, quand le dernier des rois Plantagenêt Richard III d’Angleterre meurt au champ d’honneur, et qu’Henri VII devient roi.

La maison de Lancastre descendait de Jean de Gand, duc de Lancastre et 3e fils du roi Édouard III.

Celle d’York descendait de son frère Edmond de Langley (1341-1402), 4e fils du roi Édouard III, devenu duc d’York en 1385.

L’emblème de la maison de Lancastre était la rose rouge, tandis que celui des York était la rose blanche, ce qui est à l’origine du nom donné a posteriori à ce conflit.

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Last Resort saison 1 photo

Last Resort saison 1

Voici Last Resort, une nouvelle série de science-fiction/thriller réalisée par Shawn Ryan et diffusée sur ABC.

Nous sommes dans un futur proche : un sous-marin nucléaire américain, le Colorado, reçoit l’ordre de tirer contre le Pakistan. Lorsque le capitain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) demande confirmation, il est relevé de ses fonctions.

Son second, le Lieutenant Commandant Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman), demande également confirmation de l’ordre et le vaisseau est attaqué par le sous-marin Illinois. Deux tirs nucléaires sont lancés sur le Pakistan.

Déclaré ennemis de leur propre pays, l’équipage s’échappe et se refuge dans un campement de l’OTAN situé sur l’île de Sainte Marina (une île française fictive dans l’Océan Idien) dans lequel ils forment une société qui devient le plus petit état nucléaire du monde.

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Google vs Microsoft vs Apple : state of mind

Parce qu’au fond, vous savez bien qu’entre Google, Microsoft et Apple, tout est histoires d’interopérabilité ou de systèmes propriétaires, d’API ouvertes ou non, et de logiques mercantiles plus ou moins avouées :

google v microsoft v apple

RIP Steve Jobs.

herbes hautes

Intermission : aller-simple pour une bataille rangée


Les lettres défilent devant mes yeux à demi-clos. Le bruit me rappelle une arme automatique. Je ferme les yeux un bref instant.

Lorsque je les rouvre, je suis embourbé jusqu’aux genoux. Mes vêtements humides me collent à la peau alors que quelques gouttes de transpiration coulent lentement le long de ma colonne vertébrale.

Une patrouille de trois militaires passe devant moi sans me voir.

Le vacarme est assourdissant, l’air est à la fois humide et âcre à cause des fumées. On ne voit rien à cinq mètres mais on entend des cris et des injonctions en plusieurs langues, dont plusieurs exotiques que je ne comprends pas.

Je continue d’avancer, mon paquetage tapant durement contre mes reins, baïonnette au fusil.


Mes tympans bourdonnent. Putain de mission. Mais où est donc le reste de mon unité ?

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West to the Pacific photo

America: West to the Pacific

A westward expansion

Expansion is both commercial and territorial. American expansion was always as sort of global attitude involving territorial growth and commercial expansion, exactly like a body that grows. America has always been perceived as a body.

The growth is so huge that nobody can do anything about it: unlimited development, though only extending to the West.

In 1800, the Western Boundary/Border was the Mississippi River. Beyond it, stood great areas of land, not very known: 600 miles to the Rocky Mountains.

Louisiana was still a French territory (and France was then ruled by Napoleon). Napoleon sold Louisiana to the Americans for 15 million dollars to make war in Europe with Britain. As Louisiana was a huge territory, the American territories doubled over the night. Thanks Napoleon!

Jefferson had sent explorers to the West to find an easy way to the Pacific. Louis and Clark left in 1804 and set off up the Missouri River. They marched for 10 weeks in the Rocky Mountains and ate their horses.

They finally reached the Columbia River, on which they floated down to the Pacific.

In December 1805, they reached the Pacific, after 4 000 miles. They failed to find an easy way but they showed the journey was possible and indirectly favored expansion thanks to the useful information they brought back.

Oregon was a territory stretching from Alaska to California and to the Rocky Mountains to Louisiana.

In 1804, it was claimed by 4 countries: US, Britain, Spain (owning California) and Russia (owning Alaska). The US and Britain had the strongest positions because they had sent people scout to recognize the land and to settle trading posts.

Among those people, there were trappers (called “mountain men”) who spent their lives wandering for furs. In the 1830s, Britain had more settlements than the Americans:

  • FEAR !
  • American politicians made great effort to persuade Americans to start farms in Oregon.

The journey was terrible, expensive and lasted for months. In 1832, settlers began travelling by land. The route was called the “Oregon Trail”, the first overland route to the Pacific and to the American expansion.

It was not an easy journey because of the many dangers: floods, blizzards, prairie fires, accidents, diseases and starvation took many lives. But settlers continued.

In 1843, the Oregon Fever came to many parts of the US and contaminated thousands of people who set off in the West with wagons.

Gradually, they grew and outnumbered the British. It is typical of the process the Americans are going to use to claim that the territories are potentially theirs:

  1. settling down
  2. outnumbering the opponents
  3. indexing territories

Manifest destiny

“Manifest Destiny” was an expression coined by O”Sullivan in 1845. It will become the motto of the American expansion. The idea existed before the phrase was coined: it expressed the fundamental belief in America that the destiny of America was special because of the overruling Providence.

The fate of America is planned by God: it consists in expanding naturally. The first stage of this ideology is religious, Calvinistic (chosenness and election). Then it is a secular ideal: instead of being divine, it becomes manifest so that everybody can see it.

Manifest Destiny became the natural ideology of the expansionists, demanding that the US should take the whole of Oregon to Alaska (54° 40″). Another motto was “54-40 or fight!”.

In 1844, James K. Polk was elected President on a Manifest Destiny platform. In his inaugural address, he said that “the American claim of the whole of Oregon is clear an unquestionable”.

At war with Mexico and Britain

As a result, a double war with Mexico and Britain broke out. In June, Polk agreed to divide Oregon in 2 parts on the 49th parallel of latitude. In 1846, the Americans were at war with Mexico.

That was the first real colonial war and it grew out of events having taken place in Texas. Thousands of Americans had settled in Texas, which was ruled by Mexico since the 1830s.

Texan Americans gradually opposed the Mexican rules and rebelled in October 1835. The Texans won against the Mexicans in 1836 at the Battle of San Jacinto. Texas became an independent republic.

Most Texans did not want their independence to last too long: they wanted to join the American territories. In 1845, Texas is part of the US.

In April 1846, there are some fights between American and Mexican soldiers along the Southern border between Texas and Mexico. American soldiers invaded Mexico and defeated the Mexican army and occupied Mexico City in September 1847.

That Tex-Mex war ended in February 1848. Mexico lost big stretches of territory: California, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.

This indexation completed the Manifest Destiny of the USA and the process of continentalization. The result is the USA but the process is not yet completed.

The plot in Regeneration by Pat Barker photo

A transformed vision of time in Regeneration


Space, setting, the interaction between landscape and mindscape and the curious similarities between outdoors places in Scotland and the landscape of the Flanders correspond to the writer’s intention of similarity: the characters are so obsessed by the war that they see it in Scotland.

This obsession ultimately transforms their vision of time.

The present is the past

Indeed, the characters have no present. It applies to all traumatized soldiers:

  • conscious: remembering.
  • unconscious: hallucination

For instance, Sassoon had hallucinations (p.12): “the pavement was covered in corpses“. Then he says he had no more: the reader can doubt it:

  • p.5: “he saw lines of men“.
  • p.142: “with a crack like rifle fire“.

The same happens to Burns: (p.37): “a branch rattled like machine gun fire“.
And to Prior:

  • p.214: “the darkness, the nervousness, the repeated and unnecessary swallowing…
  • p.215: “at this distance, her eyes merged into a single eye“.He remembers the eye he held in the trenches.Love scene turned into a horror scene.

No future

If the past keeps coming back then there is no future.

  • p.118: Rivers’s analysis of Sassoon: “inability to envisage any kind of future“.
  • p.198: “it means you’re obsessed […] you never talk about the future anymore“.

A subjective vision of time

Read passage p.83-84 : conversation between Owens and Sassoon about the war.

Personal time

Interesting passage: 2 people in a hospital talking about their past experience. You would expect present tense to refer to the moment of enunciation and past tenses to refer to the war but here, present tenses are used to refer to the past:

  • “sometimes when you’re alone“.
  • and that makes it something you almost can’t challenge“.
  • what you see every night“.

When the present is used, “you” is used too. Both tense and pronoun have the effect of generalizing their experience so that their personal experience of the war is turned into a universal experience. What happened to them becomes exemplary.

B. Historical time

Generalization has the effect of blurring WW1 as an historical event and of presenting it as an a-historical event.


  • you get sense of something ancient“.Owen takes the war out of the contemporary period.
  • men from Marlborough’s army“.He compares WW1 to very distant events in the past.
  • wars distilled themselves into that war“.Owen shows the similarities of all wars. World War One is the model, the paradigm of all wars.

Sassoon refers to the future. The result is the same: war loses its temporal and historical quality.

  • “I seemed to be seeing it from the future”.If he is in the future, then war represents the past.

War loses its historical quality. The common point is that war becomes a sort of symbolic representation of Time.

Time is movement but for them, time is eternal death.

The plot in Regeneration by Pat Barker photo

Landscape and mindscape in Regeneration

Study of a passage p.37-38: “he got off at the next stop […] whine of shells“.

This passage is not a dialogue. The narrator is telling us about Burns. Presence of realistic elements: stress on concrete details (“a tuft of grey wool“). Use of chronological order + realistic framework.

Everything is seen through Burns’s subjectivity: he is the central focalizer and we move from an objective description of landscape to a subjective mindscape.

Presence of subjectivity


Burns is the focalizer (internal focalization): “looking up and down“. Burns does not only look, he feels trough his skin: “raindrops”, “burning round the knees”.

He also hears the pigeon.


Passage characterized with 3rd person narration. From time to time, the voice of the character emerges:

  • “it was so long since he’d been anywhere alone”.
  • “up, up”.

Burns is talking. The main effect is to reduce the distance between the reader and the character.

The impossible escape

Burns has left the hospital in an impulse. He does not know where he wants to go. His mental state is extremely fragile and even the traffic is too much for him. He favours a solitary place: “a hill”. Desire for escape:

  • out of hospital.
  • away from human beings.

The hill: a savage and desolate place. The stress is on the upward movement:

  • “up, up”
  • repetition of “hill”
  • “climbing”
  • “crest”

When there is an insistence on something in the text, it may have a symbolic meaning.

  • upward movement: usually trying to find a better world.
  • quite consistent with his desire to get away from human beings.
  • it is unconscious.

The problem is that he goes up but he is stopped: “way barred by a force”. His progression is hindered and he becomes a prisoner of Nature. Intention to move on: “he pressed two strands of wire apart” but failure: “catching his sleeve”. Then panic: “breaking into a sweat”. Burns tries to protect himself: “steeple of his cupped hands”.

There are 2 symbolic meanings:

  • protecting his breath,
  • steeple: symbol of the church.
    => he ought to take shelter.

An aggressive nature

3 elements out of 4 are present in the text:

  • Air: wind
  • Earth: mud
  • Water: rain

The 4 elements are necessary to life but here rain aggresses Burns and blinds him. No freedom. Air: high wind and maline intention (evil wind). “Snatching away” : the wind is trying to kill him.

The landscape of Scotland becomes the landscape of Flanders. Burns mistakes a place for another (confusion) and a moment for another: there is no present for Burns since what he lives is the war.

That is the way Pat Barker chose to express Burns’ trauma.