“Private Peaceful” is a story of two brothers who always look out for each other. The main story is set in the war but some of it is set at their home town. Each chapter begins with the main character (Tommo) reading out the time. The start of the chapter is in the present for Tommo but he always sees something that makes him think about the past. As the story progresses the past and the present join up at the end for the big climax.
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Charlie plays a main role in this book because he is Tommo’s brother, and always looks out for him. For example: When Jimmy Parsons fights Tommo, Charlie jumps in and starts to defend his brother and then takes the punishment instead of Tommo. This example is the first of many times that Charlie looks out for Tommo. This shows that Charlie is a caring brother and person who would do anything to stand up for Tommo. Therefore the reader can make the assumption that at some point during the war, Charlie is going to stand up for Tommo which in actual fact is what causes the emotional finale at the end. Charlie even protects the Colonels dog when the Colonel was going to shoot it:
“He was going to shoot her, Mother,” he said quickly. “I had to do it.”
This quote shows that he was standing up for the dog because he loved it and didn’t think it was right to just do away with her. Charlie also stands up for Molly when his mother finds out that she is going to have his baby.
“You shouldn’t have said that to Moll, Mother.”
This quote shows that Charlie is standing up for Molly because he loves her. The writer makes you sympathetic towards the good characters so that you feel connected with them so that when Charlie is executed at the end, it is a lot more emotional. The end of “Private Peaceful” is ironic because Charlie is executed for standing up for his brother. He was shot for cowardice even though he was actually being brave by standing up to authority again.
Bravery is a theme that is continued through the whole book. Charlie shows bravery when he goes poaching on the Colonel’s land because they have hardly any food.
“It was Charlie’s idea to go poaching: salmon, sea trout, rabbits even deer if we were luckyâ€¦.”
Charlie poaches the animals to feed the family. This shows that he is breaking the law for the benefits of others and not for personal gain. He is doing something that is considered to be wrong for the right reasons, which is what gives him the respect and sympathy of the reader.
The theme of bravery is continued once they get to the war. Tommo and Charlie are told to advance on enemy lines they do it even though they are scared but they know that they have to do it. Charlie’s last act of bravery towards his brother was the one that got him killed. He stood up to Sergeant Hanley to stay with his brother who was badly injured knowing that if he stayed he would be executed. Despite this, he still he stayed with Tommo. At the end of the book Charlie shows extreme bravery by refusing the hood and staying calm. When Charlie goes against authority and disobeys orders we fear for his safety but we feel he is justified since he is doing the right thing.
There are similarities in the book between home and war. Home sounds nice and looks nice but really, life is hard for the Peaceful family. In war Charlie and Tommo have his comrades who are like family to them. The Peaceful family stick together and look out for each other, for example when the Colonel catches them poaching on his land. He wanted to beat them but his mother wouldn’t let him.
“Cleaning out the kennels I don’t mind – you deserve that. But it stops there. I won’t let that man lay a finger on you, not one finger, no matter what.”
In war they stick together when they have to go into the enemy’s trench to capture a prisoner. In war there is unpredictability about when or if they are going to be shot which is why at the end Charlie is so calm. It is because he knows exactly how and when he will die. This also puts Tommo at a slight ease because he doesn’t have to worry when or how his brother might die. There are many other similarities that these “families” share, for example both involve a bond of trust and also within the contrasting families everyone looks out for each other. Charlie takes on the father figure in the “war family” as if looking out for his children. There are authority figures like the Colonel and Grandmawolf at home and Sergant Hanley at the war and the two families are both united against the evil authority figures which is another similarity that both families share.
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There are three main villains in the book: The Colonel, Grandmawolf and Sergeant Hanley. They all have one thing in common: they pick on the Peaceful family. The Colonel tries to kick the Peaceful family out of their house even though their father had died only a couple of days ago. Grandmawolf enforced her rules when their mother wasn’t there and often hit her grandchildren.
“When Molly protested once, she smacked her and sent her home. She smacked Big Joe too, whenever he didn’t do what she said, which was often.”
Sergeant Hanley shouts at Charlie to try and make him leave Tommo but Charlie refuses. Each villain in the novel demands respect from the Peaceful family that they didn’t earn or deserve. It is this fact that makes them the villains of the novel. Each family’s strength and togetherness is what eventually leads to the triumphant victory over those in power who demand respect. For example, Tommo’s mother stands up to the Colonel to protect her family. Everyone in the family stands up to Grandmawolf. Finally, Charlie stands up to Sergant Hanley to protect Tommo. These villains and triumphs are what brings the family even closer together.
The thing that really grasped my attention was the realistic description of the First World War. I especially liked the description of the gas attack. It was so good because it showed exactly what someone would be thinking if there was a gas attack. I liked how when the Gas Attack occurred, Tommo thought that it was coming directly for him and not the whole squadron.
“Its deadly tendrils are searching ahead, feeling their way forward in long yellow wisps, scenting me, searching for me. Then finding me out, the gas turns and drifts straight for me.”
Tommo talks about the gas as if it was a creature slowly creeping towards him and searching him out. There is also another great bit when a large Hun jumps into the trench beside Tommo and aims a rifle at his head. But the Hun lets him go because he can see that Tommo is nothing more than a boy.
“A Hun in a gas mask is standing over me, his rifle aimed at my head. I have no rifle. It is the end. I brace myself, but he does not fire. He lowers his rifle slowly. “Go boy,” he says, waving me away with his rifle. “Go. Tommy, go.” “
When he thinks that he is going to die the writer uses short sentences to build the tension. In this section the writer shows us that the ordinary soldiers are no different from each other. They recognise that they are just pawns in the great game that is war. The German soldier treats Tommo with compassion and refuses to kill him. This is unexpected because the enemy are portrayed as evil, heartless villains by Tommo’s commanding officers who in actual fact are the real heartless villains by sending ordinary men to their death. The humanity shown by the German soldier is in stark contrast to the lack of humanity displayed by Tommo’s superiors. Bad stuff happens to Tommo all the way through this novel and that was an unexpected kindness from the opposite army which is why this is my favourite scene in this novel.
The overall theme of this story is the futility of war and by focusing on the central character (Tommo) it brings home the tragedy of human loss and suffering in World War 1. It’s also a story of heroic actions and brotherly love in the face of adversity which was repeated many times in real life during the conflict. Although there were many men killed, the author personalises the situation by making us care about the characters and what will eventually happen to them. These are not faceless soldiers but real people we can sympathise with.
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