The Tale of Lieutenant-General Lord Arthur Scoresby, V.C., K.C.B., etc., etc., etc.

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Clemens is always, always a joy to read...and usually evokes at very least a quiet chuckle. Hardy, though I've read far less of his work, is generally pretty entertaining. The two selections discuss war, and offer criticism in two completely different ways.

While I prefer Clemens' saterization of war, Hardy's more overt criticism is equally effective.

Clemens tactic is subtle, and overtly the story discusses a single officer, and quietly lampoons him. In doing this, Clemens really picks away at all the glorious trappings that tend to surround war. Through out, subtle details criticize the very concept of military leaders as competent people, let alone heros who should be admired. Oddly enough, the British army during the Crimean War is probably the very best possible example of inept military leadership since the 14th century. When he says "he went right along up, from grade to grade, over the dead bodies of his superiors," it subtly points out that ability isn't necessarily the method by which one climbs through the ranks. The very idea of the randomness of the man's inadvertant attack leading to his promotion shows not only the value of luck, but the unimportance of intelligence or guile on the part of a military leader. In saying this he removes the source of officers respect. If glory in battle occurs randomly, there is nothing special about it.

Hardy takes a different approach, and brings up the simple point that soldiers on both sides are essentially the same, yet are killing each other. However, his poetry does a far better job, than many like it, because it doesn't bemoan this fact of war, but rather suggests that it deserves some thought. He calls war "quaint and curious," rather than terrible, stupid or senseless, and lets the reader arrive at their own conclusion.

These works both paint war as neither glorious, nor terrible, but rather silly. Clemens himself once said something about how no walls can stand against the assault of laughter. (I don't have time to look up the quote,) and I think both these works keep with that spirit by showing war to be silly, rather than horrible.     

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