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CLAIRE ANN HARRIS HOPLEY, University of Massachusetts Amherst


English novelists who have written about their experience of the Second World War have worked in the shadow of those who wrote about the First World War. As a generation they grew up feeling that the earlier war had exposed the inadequacy of late-Victorian and Edwardian civilization, and that therefore their own generation had a special responsibility to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. The occurrence of the Second World War, though expected, was, then, a mark of failure. Moreover, for writers it imposed the burden of creating a literature comparable in strength to that produced by those who had fought in the earlier war. English novels about the Second World War have not, however, concentrated on the experience of battle. Rather, they have been about English society and twentieth-century history and have showed the effects of these on the moral and intellectual growth of a group of characters. The acquisition and use of power has been an important theme in both novels about the war and also in those written afterwards and concerned with the questions about evil which it raised.^ Studies of the work of George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, Anthony Powell, and C. P. Snow, all of whom wrote before and after the war, show the variety in their treatment of it, yet each locates its sources in human personality. Orwell suspected that the love of power and its corollary, the love of powerlessness, were becoming endemic and that totalitarianism and war were the inevitable results. Waugh found the Christian belief in a fallen world sufficient explanation for the horrors of the twentieth century as well as a guide for behavior. Powell's image of life as a dance to the music of time accepts war as a phase of history, while Snow suggests that destructiveness is an inherent human quality against which constant efforts must be made. These and other writers publishing after the war used realist techniques or other popular forms, hoping to make their commentaries on war available to as large an audience as possible.^

Subject Area

Modern literature

Recommended Citation

HOPLEY, CLAIRE ANN HARRIS, "WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS: THE ENGLISH NOVEL AND THE SECOND WORLD WAR" (1983). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI8317473.