They can be read separately, but their significance is far greater when considered as a whole. Guy Crouchback has the pressure of tradition and inheritance upon him. His family has a distinguished history and a country estate in the West Country which is being used as a convent at the opening of the novel. His elder brother was killed on his first day of combat in the First World War. Another brother went mad and died. He has an elder sister, but under the conventions of primogeniture, neither she nor her offspring are eligible as inheritors of the family name and estate.
Guy has been married but is now divorced and childless. Moreover, as a practising Catholic, he believes he should not re-marry — which is why he embarks on the comic but painful episode in which he attempts to seduce his ex-wife Virginia in Claridges Hotel.
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The planned seduction does not go well, and the promiscuous Virginia reproaches him in a particularly cruel manner. Guy tries to be honourable, but he is emotionally immature. Evelyn Waugh originally wrote and published the three volumes of the Sword of Honour trilogy as stand-alone novels. Men at Arms was published in , then followed by Officers and Gentlemen in , and Unconditional Surrender in The separate volumes are united by the figure of Guy Crouchback, whose development and misadventures they trace.
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But when the sequence was completed, Waugh edited the texts to make the trilogy a more coherent whole. The edits are fairly minor and do not change any significant episodes of the plot. For a detailed examination of the parallels and constructive differences, see the excellent introduction and explanatory notes to the Penguin edition of Sword of Honour edited by Angus Calder. Even though the novels can be understood and enjoyed as separate fictional entities, it is clear that Waugh conceived of the trilogy as a whole. There are recurring characters about whom the reader only learns more fully when they appear in later volumes.
We do not learn these details until the second volume of the trilogy when Trimmer is on leave in Glasgow and spends a few days with Virginia in a hotel.
Waugh exploits both dramatic irony and elements of farce and black humour throughout the novel — and the trilogy. Even the titles of the three volumes are deeply ironic.
He spends the majority of the novel in training and preparing for combat which does not materialise. The only military action he sees is a farcical and completely unnecessary night raid organised by his commander Ritchie-Hook, who emerges from the engagement with the severed head of an African guard as a trophy. Similarly, the second volume, Officers and Gentlemen , is about the failure of the officer class largely recruited from upper-class families to show any proper leadership or competence.
Apthorpe has bought a portable chemical toilet from a government official and wishes to reserve it for his private use.
Read The Sword of Honour Trilogy: Men at Arms Officers and Gentlemen & Unconditional Surrender
He hides it in various locations at their training camp, against the orders of their officer, the disciplinarian Ritchie-Hook, who pursues the matter with official notices banning access: Out of Bounds to all ranks below Brigadier. Apthorpe clings to his possession for no other reason than a neurotic fear that he might contract veneral disease from the seat of a shared toilet. When they are sent to Africa on a reconaissance expedition, Apthorpe contracts a tropical disease.
Guy goes to comfort him in hospital, smuggling in a bottle of whisky against orders as a gift. Apthorpe finishes the bottle, and the alcohol kills him. All his mistakes, large and small, are recorded in a confidential dossier that follows him round his various postings, and effectively prevents his being promoted. Dust jacket spines are all lightly faded. The spines of the books are faded where there are pieces missing from the dust jackets.
Victory has been the impossible dream, and now, for Bolitho, a vision of the future and a more personal peace seems attainable. He remains, however, an admiral of England, and an unsympathetic Admiralty dispatches him to Malta. Shop by category. Special Attributes see all. Dust Jacket. Not specified. Publisher see all. Folio Society. Year Printed see all. Binding see all. Language see all. Condition see all.
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