Military in Literature
Literature by definition is a body of written works or stated (oral) accounts, which are related by subject matter, language, place of origin, or by the influence of culture. It is often inspired by an event which conveys great emotion not only to the author but also to the audience (readers and listeners). On the other hand, War and the Military is in nature, dramatic and conveys different degrees of emotion to different people. Because of this, it is not surprising to see that the military has been the subject of a great number of literatures, whether it directly or indirectly pertains to it as a topic. The military is greatly related to literature as it is able to inspire authors to create more literary pieces, using it as a subject, no matter what type of literature is involved.
The relationship of the military and literature dates back to the early times, when historians document events that happen in the early civilizations. Some of them, like Herodotus of Halicarnassus, wrote prose on the wars that happen in his land (Military History Companion). The purpose of his writing at that was to serve as a memorial for the warriors that have fought for their land, and so their deeds and achievements should not be forgotten. Another early manifestation of the military in literature was with the Romans. Their contribution to literature in the aspect of military is more in the field of history than that of fictional works. Roman historians concentrated on subjects like vast wars, sacking and raiding of cities, the fall of kings, and the history of conflicts between the ruling classes (Boardman, Griffin and Murray).
Poets like Homer and Virgil wrote of stories depicting war: how one military force succumbs to another, or how one army slaughters another. Some of the famous works depicting early military were Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey, and Virgil’s Aenid (Military History Companion).
Moving ahead of time, modern day military and warfare have also inspired literary authors to create pieces based on actual events with a twist of their own. In the early 19th century, Roman authors created more honorable and chivalrous literary pieces, as opposed to the ongoing Napoleonic wars. Works like Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, and Alexandre Dumas, pere’s The Three Musketeers depicted the brutality of the ongoing wars. Come early 1900s, the best chronicler of the British army in India came to scene. Rudyard Kiping’s Plain Tales from the Hills and Soldiers Three, were some of his works which was able to capture the essence of military life (The Norton Book of Modern War).
Skipping time again, we move to the after years of the Cold War, where one writer gained prominence. Tom Clancy is a US author of his political thrillers, bestselling as they were because it was able to technically detail stories about espionage and the military among the players of the Cold War (Biblio). Clancy was able to bridge the military and literature, as he created novels which not only tell stories about love affairs or conflicts, but also detailed accounts of spies, military tactics, and the latest weapons of mass destruction (US Military History Companion). He was able to affect the readers’ emotions by giving them fiction with a touch of non-fiction. He was well versed with military knowledge that’s why he was able to create great literary pieces by using bits of facts and information regarding the military and other related matters (Delgado).
Literature has really found good use of the military, wherein pieces of military literature dates back to the early times. The military as a literary topic has come a long way, but still, it has proven to be an effective subject that can easily catch the attention of the readers and would be able to keep them reading for quite some time.
Biblio, Inc. “Tom Clancy”. 2008. Biblio, Inc. June 4 2008. <http://www.biblio.com/authors/605/Tom_Clancy_Biography.html>.
Boardman, John, Jasper Griffin, and Oswyn Murray. The Oxford History of the Classical World. Oxford Publishing, 1986.
Delgado, Celeste Fraser. “Technico-Military Thrills and the Technology of Terror: Tom Clancy and the Commission on the Disappeared.” Cultural Critique.No. 32 (1995-1996).
Military History Companion. “The Military in Literature and Drama”. 2001. Oxford University Press. June 4 2008. <http://www.answers.com/topic/the-military-in-literature-and-drama>.
The Norton Book of Modern War. Ed. Paul Fussell, 1991.
US Military History Companion. “War and the Military in Literature”. 2001. Oxford University Press. June 4 2008. <http://www.answers.com/topic/war-and-the-military-in-literature>.