The novel Generals Die in Bed written by Charles Yale Harrison is a story of a young man sent to fight on the western front during WW1. The novel is written in a dull and direct style that makes it distinctive from other war novels. Harrison writes about the factual truth of life in the trenches by conveying a sense of horror and dreadfulness about the atrocities of war. Harrison focuses on the negative side of war rather the romanticised side, his form of writing portrays that there is certainly no glamour in war. The horror of life in the trenches is a vital theme and is characterized through many challenges the narrator encounters in the novel. The monstrosity of war is portrayed throughout the novel through things such as the way Harrison talks of the inhumane conditions by using metalanguage such as metaphors and imagery, how he draws on his own experience of the war and how war is seen through the eyes of those who don’t experience war verses those who do.
Harrison portrays the trenches in graphic detail. This allows the mind of the readers to visualise the overwhelming impact the war had on the soldiers. Harrison exemplifies this when he talks about the trenches, the ammunition battles and the psychological impact each stage of the war took on the soldiers. Harrison cleverly uses metaphors to emphasise the horrific sounds of weaponry. “It screams and rages and boils like an angry sea”. The soldier is constantly plagued by the atrocious sounds of the shrieking and howling of the dying and wounded soldiers. The strong sense of imagery is incorporated throughout the soldier’s experiences of the battles in the trenches. The writer clearly identifies the traumatic figures that are described; he describes the images realistically and shows the struggles. “His face is bathed in sweat and pain”. Through the first person narrative, Harrison exposes the reader to fear, allowing the reader to understand through the close views of the narrator, what a soldier truly experiences. His endless blunt style of writing allows the reader to realise that there is no glory in war, he heightens the fear in the reader by talking about the soldiers fight for survival or death, entombed in mud, surrounded by rats and lice and forced to survive on insufficient rations. Harrison horrifyingly describes a German solider named Karl who is stabbed in the stomach with a bayonet, ‘the wound in which I have been mauling is now a gaping hole’ he goes into cold and deep details making the reader feel sick rather than happy that he killed a German.
Drawing on his own experiences during the First World War, through an unnamed narrator, the novel allows readers to compare and empathise with the soldiers. Harrison’s intention is to awaken his readers to the new reality of War. The opening chapter depicts many of the soldiers leaving Montreal with women cheering them off, they all turn white faced and in fear of what is coming once the crowd leaves. Quickly enough, in the following chapter, Harrison sends his unnamed narrator over to France, where the true horrors of war immediately become apparent. The romanticized image of