Charles Yale Harrison’s Generals Die in Bed vs Colin McDougall’s Execution

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Charles Yale Harrison’s Generals Die in Bed vs Colin McDougall’s Execution

As with any genre, all novels termed ‘war stories’ share certain elements in common. The place and time settings of the novels, obviously, take in at least some aspect of at least one war or conflict. The characters tend to either be soldiers or are at least immediately affected by the military. An ever present sense of doom with punctuated moments of peace is almost a standard of the war novel. Beyond the basic similarities, however, each of these battle books stands apart as an individual. Charles Yale Harrison’s World War I novel, Generals Die in Bed is, in essence, quite different than Colin McDougall’s Execution. Coming years earlier,
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This book, unlike its predecessor, begins in the thick of things. There is no tearful farewell from the homeland, there is, in fact quite the opposite. While Harrison’s men head toward the harbour that will bring them away from home, McDougall’s men are heading toward a harbour that will lead to their enemy, which they will heroically engage in mortal combat. This heroism is shown exquisitely in “Private Jones’s martyrdom.” (Mason, 95).

The Canadian troops are, of course, not the only ones involved in the conflicts around which these books centre. At a very early stage in the novel, McDougall presents us with an American. The way in which this southern neighbour is introduced to the story, a paratrooper who has missed his mark, may be a subtle poke at American incompetence in general (McDougall, 4). The Americans that Harrison brings in near the end of his story are obnoxious and bound to summon their own doom (Harrison, 237). The British military is vastly lacking in McDougall’s story, though perhaps represented in the Scots company within the Canadian ranks. When the odd British soldier appears, it is generally as messenger and not as commander. Generals has swarms of Brits throughout the novel, generally in command positions. The bitterness felt by Canadian soldiers toward their British officers in the trenches of the First World War becomes clearly invoked in the where Fry
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