Comparative Analyses of Movies

6 June 2017

Comparative Analyses of Movies (Glory (GL); Gone With the Wind (GW); Birth of a Nation (BN)) and Books on the Civil War (Woe to Live On (WL); Red Badge of Courage (RB)) Introduction The movies GL, GW, BN and novels WL, RB (the works) portray men motivated to fight the Civil War by a complex mixture of ideology and patriotism, seeking glory, courage, honor , and comradery as well as vengeance, often holding naive expectations of an easy, quick victory, with varying emphases. In GL, Shaw’s quest for glory dominates as he volunteers his African American regiment for a suicidal mission to prove their valor, as well as to fight for freedom for slaves, the only work emphasizing emancipation, particularly as a reason for African Americans to fight. GW and BN emphasize southern men defending the Old South from Northern subjugation. WL emphasizes Jake’s drive to become an honorable southern man/comrade by joining bushwhackers who, in seeking vengeance, dishonor Jake’s image of a southern man. RB emphasizes Henry’s individual rationalization for his acts as he seeks courage and heroism. Excitement/Naive Expectations of Victory/Glory Naive notions of an easy, quick victory for their side, and the glory it will bring, drive characters throughout these works to enlist and fight in the Civil War. Believing in their sure victory, the characters are excited about the prospect of war and seek adventure through service in the military, as well as glory. The clearest example of this appears in RB. The novel begins with a Northern youth, Henry, who romanticizes the idea of war, thinking of it in terms of Greek poems and ancient history, daydreaming of battles between heroes in Greek tales he read in school. At first disappointed in his belief that the wars of old, such as ancient Greek struggles, can no longer be found, his enthusiasm for the Civil War begins after hearing news of Northern victories. Motivated to enlist by news of victory along with romantic notions of war, he seeks to emulate the Greek heroes that he admires. Leaving home, he’s disappointed when his mother gives him practical advice rather than a poetic speech, having expected her to demand he return “with his shield or on it” in Spartan fashion. The Civil War is but a game for him to live his boyish fantasies when he first enlists. This same light attitude towards war is seen in BN. While Southern men seem to take the war seriously, the Stoneman brothers in the North embark from home in a jovial and playful mood. While making make no remarks to confirm that they see the war in the same way as Henry, it is clear they do not realize the seriousness of the war. In GW, young Southern men also appear excited by the idea of war. During Ashley’s engagement party before the war is announced, the men seem eager for war to start. One man claims that a Southern man is as good as 10 Northerners. The young men all voice a firm belief that the South will win an easy victory, ignoring warnings by elders that the North has vastly greater resources. Their supreme confidence in their superiority functions as part of their motivation, seeking war to satisfy their desire for victory and the glory that comes with victory. In GL, Commander Shaw is the only character who appears primarily motivated to achieve glory in the war. When Shaw first sees his men fight, he is inspired by how well they fought. Unlike the other works, however, glory in battle for Shaw serves more as a means to an end rather than a goal itself. His interactions with the reporter suggest that he wishes to use glory to prove to the North that his African-American regiment is just as capable as a white regiment. Shaw’s concept of, and desire for, Glory is best seen in the final segment of the film. Inspired by his men’s ability to fight, he volunteers his regiment for a suicidal mission in which they will essentially act as human shields in the hope that they will be regarded as heroes, seeing this mission to lead an assault on a fortress as an honor rather than a death trap. Ideology In many works ideological motivations play a major role in motivating military participation. Ideological motivations are perhaps surprisingly a larger factor for the South than the North in the works examined. GW, BN, and WLO all present an idealized sense of Southern culture as a way of life. Characters in these works fought the Civil War to defend a way of life under attack by the North. GW and BN present an almost utopian picture of Southern society. The beginning of GW is full of beautiful landscapes, beautiful people, large parties, and an abundance of prosperity. GW in its opening refers to the Old South as the land where “gallantry took its last bow,” the “last of knights and their ladies fair. ” BN paints a similar picture in which the Southern family shows hospitality to their friends from the North. All are well dressed and shown as quite happy and content. There are no negative images of the South in either movie. In GW, subtitles describe the South in romantic terms. In BN they show pets playfully fighting with subtitles explaining that this is the extent of strife in Southern society. Once the Civil War begins they display a quick impoverishment and destruction of the Old South to contrast how perfect it was before the war. In this context it becomes clear that the Southerners are fighting to preserve the honorable, chivalric way of life of the Old South form the ravaging seen later on. At the dinner party in GW, Ashley makes it clear that he fears war for this reason, but declares it his duty as a Southerner to defend it. The scene in BN where the elder brother drapes his sleeping sister in a Confederate flag the night before he embarks to fight bestows a strong sense that he and his comrades will serve as protective guardians. WLO does not present the same picture of the South as GW and BN, but often makes reference to it. While GW and BN show a strong transition from prosperity to ruin, WLO focuses on the ruin. The ruin is sufficient to provide Jake with the idea he is protecting his way of life. When he discusses why he fights, one reason he states clearly is his belief that the North has no right to tell the South what to do. He ponders the idea that young men would come down from the North in order to force their way of life on the South. (Jake also despairs that although he and his bushwhacker comrades had begun their fight to maintain the honor of the Old South, dishonorable acts had been committed in the war, and it would take years to renovate their honor if ever they won. ) In addition to idealizing the Old South GW, BN, and WLO de-emphasize the importance of slavery. In GW and BN slavery is portrayed in a very generous light. As the Southern family gives the Stonemans a tour of their home they visit the slave quarters. The slaves appear happy as they celebrate and entertain the white families. The house slaves are portrayed as faithful and almost as part of the family. When the men leave town to fight, the slaves appear cheering them on in the streets alongside their masters. The slaves in GW are similarly happy and faithful. One of Scarlett’s former slaves appears genuinely happy to see her in Atlanta giving the impression that he was actually fond of his master. Mammie is a motherly figure to Scarlett and portrayed as practically an equal. In WLO the character Holt also serves to de-emphasize slavery. It is known that Holt once belonged to the Jack Bull’s family but his status through the course of the novel is ambiguous. He is friends with Jack Bull and Jake who both treat him as an equal. He fights alongside them against the North. The presence of a former slave who befriends white Southerners and fights against the North of his own free will serves to whitewash slavery as it does in BN and GW. However, WLO does not completely whitewash slavery as BN and GW do. Jack and Jake are the exception rather than the rule and they protect Holt from the others. In contrast, emancipation is a major motivating factor for Shaw and his regiment of African American soldiers to fight in GL. GL begins with Shaw narrating a letter home in which he writes “honored” to captain a company of older men, fighting for those “whose poetry is not yet written. ” From the start it is clear that Shaw believes he is fighting for an ideal that all men are equal. This is strengthened when it is established that he comes from a strong abolitionist background. The African-Americans under Shaw’s command clearly fight for emancipation as well, exhibiting a great personal stake in the war, fighting for freedom of all African Americans. Believing strongly in their cause, they endure great hardships in the military including insults, inadequate provisions of essential supplies, harsh training, and wounds. They face execution by the enemy if captured in uniform, and refuse all pay when denied equal pay. Their devotion to their cause is explicitly referenced at their spiritual before the last battle, where many speak of the freedom they seek including Rawlins who prays that if he dies, people should know he “died fighting for freedom. ” Proof of Worth Another major motivation found throughout these works is the desire to prove one’s self worth and have others acknowledge it. This is the central motivation for Jake in WLO. While Jake claims to have many reasons for joining the Civil War, his primary motivation is to be considered a true Southern gentleman his peers, rather than a Dutchman. Often expressing moral objections to his own actions, Jake continues doing them in his quest to belong, proudly announcing to a comrade that he was a Southern male(18), speaking proudly of comrade bonds(35-36), calling Jack Bull his comfort and cause. (50) Finally Jake achieves self worth by following his own morals, refusing to pillage innocent citizens, even though forced to resign from the bushwhackers. In RB, Henry also seeks self worth. Disillusioned with war, he quickly wishes to return home. After fleeing, he returns, shamed, which is made worse when he is mistaken for a hero by his regiment. He is then motivated to earn the respect of his regiment mistakenly given him. The characters in GL, too, are motivated by a desire to earn respect from their fellow soldiers. As African-American soldiers they work hard to earn recognition of comrades, particularly whites, and to be accepted as equals. They seek supplies and training so that they will not be relegated to camp, but allowed to fight, like men, and gain the respect of their white comrades who have risked their lives. They finally gain this acceptance and respect by leading a suicidal assault on the fort. Vengeance/Hatred Hatred and vengeance motivated soldiers as well, particularly Jake’s band of bushwhackers in WLO as they fought untrustworthy Northerners and Jaywalkers who had ransacked the South taking property and killing innocent civilians, constantly seeking vengeance for comrades deaths. (20-21,71) Crawford joined Bushwhackers to avenge his father’s tortured death (10), and later threatens revenge for his injury, ten men for his wound, but a thousand if he was crippled. Jake loses trust for Yankees who, in spite of pledging protection, robbed and murdered southerners including Jake Bull’s father(94-95). Bushwhackers were “bent on revenge by bloody work” for the deaths of Southern women prisoners, despite fear the revenge would be suicidal. (154-166). Other works depict men motivated by hatred and vengeance although less prominently. In GW, commencing at Ashley’s engagement party, Southerners refer to the “hated” Yankees, money grubbing abolitionist thieves who would desecrate their property. In RB, Henry is motivated by: “wild hate” (for foes),(91); vengeance turning rage to a dark spectre (91); losing sense of everything but hate in dreams(92); intent hatred(93,117); exchanging “scathing insults”(121). Hatred and vengeance for injustices done to slaves serve as implicit motivations for African Americans fighting to end slavery in GL, and Trip, an escaped slave, is portrayed as so full of hate that he has to fight everyone . Soldiers in battle scenes readily avenge comrades’ deaths. In GL, after Shaw dies, the 54th regiment raises a battle cry, charging forward, more motivated than ever to avenge his death. After meeting wounded soldiers in RB, Henry fights like a lion, venting his rage, and at last, a firing line dwindles from an uproar to a last “vindictive” popping. (35). Material Gain: Material gain is a minor motive in many of the works. In Gl it becomes clear that the higher officers in charge of the region are mainly interested in looting. They set ex-slave soldiers loose on a defenseless town to plunder its wealth. In a later scene Shaw lists off the various ways in which they’ve enriched themselves . Material gain is clearly the main motivation for these men. Toward the end of WLO, bushwhackers ransack Lawrence and innocent civilians much to the dismay of Jake. 7. Other Other even less prominently portrayed motivating factors in the works include community support, military training, punishment, ambition for promotion, religion, and whiskey fortification. Military morale was bolstered by community support. In RB Henry meets old schoolmates who show him “wonder and admiration” and is treated as a hero traveling to Washington. In GW funds for soldiers are raised at charity balls, and they’re nursed in converted hospitals. In WLO, bushwhackers are nurtured, nursed and nourished by many community members, braving great danger for a mother’s hug(. 64-65). Harsh training prepared the soldiers for battle and kept them from running. In GL, the regiment’s harsh training serves them well as seen in battles where they reload quickly and mechanically, remaining in formation until allowed to break and shoot at will, as well as in their charge on the fort following their compassionate leader, roaring his name, storming the fort enraged at his death. After monotonous months of training, RB’s Henry, is prevented from fleeing when boxed in by fellow soldiers, fires his gun mechanically, and in other fights he and his comrades are scolded, beaten and shepherded into submission by leaders. Men were punished for failing to fight as portrayed in GL, where Trip was publicly whipped when suspected of deserting camp, and in RB’s discussions of punishment meted out when soldiers attempting to flee battles. Ambition for promotion motivates a gratified Henry in RB when considered for promotion and morale is raised in Gl when Shaw promotes an African American officer. GL and WLO portray soldiers trusting in God’s hoped for protection and the solace of salvation. WLO, more than any other work, references whiskey fortification as a major motivating factor. (3,148,161) Conclusion In conclusion, the works are rich in their portrayals of motivations for soldiers who fought in the Civil War, sharing major themes, portraying characters initially driven by a sense that victory would be theirs quickly and easily, desiring to share in the glory of the victors. Many works also portray ideological reasons motivating enlistment, such as emancipation or preservation of the Southern way of life. On a more personal level, the military characters were motivated by peer pressure and a desire to prove their own worth to themselves and many sought vengeance. Few sought material gain. Their morale was strengthened by other factors less prominently portrayed such as community support, training, religion, and ambition for promotion and even whiskey fortification.

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