THE MILITARY PHILOSOPHERS -- 2008






Pamela Flitton: The Black Widow

Becca Zinsmeister


      The infamous, Pamela Flitton, makes her debut in The Military Philosophers, paving her way with trampled hearts and bruised egos. She is a woman always in control, who takes great pleasure in making those graced by her presence uncomfortable. In Powell's first description of Pamela, we immediately learn of her beauty, but Nick latter states that there is something "unnatural" about her. (p.60) A statement that gains more credibility as our knowledge of Pamela's character grows.

      Through first hand observation beginning with Pamela chauffeuring Nick about the city, her unpleasant disposition becomes readily apparent. During their drive Pamela's reluctance to converse and her blatant disregard for acceptable social niceties creates unnecessary tension, which is later carried over to the party at Ted Jeavon's residence. Here we first witness Pamela in a social setting, where she shockingly proceeds to ignore her date and sit in the corner, rebuffing all attempts at conversation. Her actions show a complete disregard for the people around her and the lack of care she has for their feelings. When leaving the party, Pamela inquires to Nick about the Syzmanski affair, which is her only attempt at being social the entire night. In fact, she is almost pleasant, even laughing jovially at Nick's words. Yet, her goal is to gain information about a subject she is interested in, not to be sociable.

      As the book unfolds our impressions of Pamela's character continues to worsen as her cruel nature reveals itself during her exchange with Odo Stevens and Nick. Throughout the conversation Pamela strives to put down Stevens as many times as possible saying things like "You have weakest head out of any man I have ever met" or "You're pathetic as a lover". (p.125, p.135) She purposely makes disparaging remarks in front of other people, because she wants to embarrass Stevens. Due to the frequency of these comments, Pamela's behavior takes on a more sadistic tone. She even resorts to violence, striking Stevens across the face, when he dares to question her actions.

      Odo Stevens, like many others, boasts a place on Pamela's list of conquests. We learn through word of mouth that Pamela is to blame for Peter Templar's recent bout depression and need to prove his youth and vigor, disastrously resulting in his death. Pamela Flitton is a woman who enjoys preying on the insecurities of others. In his prime Peter Templar had success in his love life, being the first of his friends to loose his virginity. However, then he suffers through two failed marriages, most likely inspiring some sense of self-doubt. Enter Pamela Flitton, who has some sort of relationship with Peter Templar only to cast him off in search of more tender meat.

      The engagement between Widmerpool and Pamela shocks Nick and many others because of the seemingly odd pairing. Yet, Widmerpool is Pamela's ultimate challenge. Here is a man, who is hungry for power and enjoys showing off his successes to his colleagues. Pamela makes it her business to take the men that she is involved with and destroy them from the inside out. Widmerpool merely has further to fall. Unlike Peter Templar, Widmerpool is more resilient, quickly rising to the top and easily moving around obstacles. He successfully moved past his embarrassing previous engagement and it will be much more difficult for Pamela to truly harm him.

      At the National Day party we see first hand the dynamics of Widmerpool and Pamela's relationship. She arrives late, dressed, according to Nick, "in the most filthy garments she possessed" displaying a lack of difference toward her environment. (p.209) In addition, she refuses to allow Widmerpool to introduce her to high ranking officials, denying him the chance to show off his status. She even goes so far to demand that he skip dinner with the minister. Unlike Odo Stevens Widmerpool refuses to give in to Pamela's demands. Despite the heated argument Widmerpool sticks to his plans. A decision, which may have lead to Pamela deliberately trying to humiliate Widmerpool by calling him a "murderer," and then by refusing to drop the subject of Peter's death, knowing full well that someone could over hear her remarks. (p.213)

      Given the dispositions of both Widmerpool and Pamela, their marriage cannot possibly be a happy or a long one. Both Pamela and Widmerpool bolster their egos by putting down those around them and then rising above them. Ultimately, Pamela will probably either grow tired of Widmerpool or finally succeed in ruining him.





Katyn Massacre

Nicole Lee


      In The Military Philosophers, Jenkins hears an announcement on the German radio, "stating that a place called Katyn, near the Russian town of Smolensk, an accumulation of communal graves has been found by advancing German troops. (102)" Thousands of corpses in Polish uniforms were placed on top of each other with their hands tied together and a bullet through the back of their head. "The source of this information was naturally suspect, but, if in any degree to be believed, offered one solution to the mysterious disappearance of the untraced ten or fifteen thousand Polish officers, made prisoners of war by the Soviet army in 1939.(103)" This description in A Dance to the Music of Time very accurately reflects the Katyn massacre that occurred in World War II.

      In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland. The Soviets soon after came to occupy eastern Poland and interned thousands of Poles. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the Polish government agreed to cooperate with Soviets against Germany. The Polish general who was forming the new army asked to have the Polish prisoners under his command, but was told that (in December 1941) most had already escaped to Manchuria and disappeared. In December 1943, the Germans discovered the mass graves of these servicemen in the Katyn forest in western Russia.

      The disappearance of these men remained a mystery until many years after the actual massacre. In the spring of 1940, over 4,000 prisoners of war were taken out to the forest to be killed in small groups. They were taken in greatcoats with their hands tied behind their back, placed face down upon the fresh corpses of their fellow servicemen and shot through the back of the head. Those who resisted had self strangulation knots tied from their hands to necks. Those who screamed had sawdust forced down their throats. Their mass graves of these men who were only thought to be missing were found in April 1943 by the Nazi government. The Germans said they found a ditch 28 meters long and 16 meters wide at the Hill of Goats, with all of the bodies dressed in full military uniform piled in layers of twelve. The soil had preserved their bodies and their documentation.

      The initial response of the Russians to the Germans' claim was that the Germans committed this act themselves. The Allies were fighting the Nazis, however, and Russia was an ally, so the German version was not accepted by any of the Allied governments. Any information made public during this time came from Goebbel, a German propaganda minister, and was treated as suspect by the Allies. In January 1943, the Russians had defeated the Germans at Stalingrad so any criticism about them was not readily accepted. A relation between the Germans and the massacre became popular by all those fighting the Nazis. In the Cold War era, the Russian version was finally brought into question and found to be false.

      In addition to the 4,000 men killed in this forest, the Katyn massacre also refers to the 10,000 others murdered at the same time. These included the 4000 at the Starobielsk Camp and 6000 at the Ostashkow camp. It was noted that as men left the Starobielsk camp, each daily group had been selected from many different prison blocks and never included groups of friends. There is one report stating that while the Germans were later being driven back from the Kharkov area, Russian shells were bursting north of the town and one barrage of shells "caused corpses to fly in the air, as if from some burial ground." There was no further investigation of this sentence, until of course years later when the mass graves were found. The victims of this horrible massacre were Polish officers and cadets that held professions such as doctors, lawyers, teachers and clergymen. They were considered the "best and the brightest" of the Polish society.

      In The Dance to the Music of Time, Jenkins' own personal view of the Katyn massacre can be inferred from the reactions of the characters in this novel. Knowing that Powell himself worked with the Poles, it would only make sense that he was upset by the massacre. In his memoirs, it is quoted that "at this period it was thought by the London Poles that the missing officers had been exiled to distant camps within the Arctic Circle. Their atrocious massacre by the Russians at Katyn was to emerge only later." In The Military Philosophers, on the day this news was released, Nick was going to see Finn about some matter and found him to be "in one of his unapproachable moods" because the "Russo-Polish situation had thoroughly upset him.(103)" The reaction of Finn seems to most similarly parallel that of Jenkins'.

      Not all the characters, however, are sympathetic to the Poles and angry with the Russians. Widmerpool is one of these characters, as he says, "just because these deaths are very upsetting to the Poles themselves…it's no reason to undermine the fabric of our alliances against the Axis.(106)" He then finishes off the conversation by mentioning that it is not worth it to pay attention to "the interests of a few thousand Polish exiles, who, however worthy their cause, cannot properly handle their diplomatic relations.(107.)" Although this reaction is directly opposite what one may expect from Powell, he has somewhat prepared us for this. Particularly in this book and throughout the last few books, Widmerpool has set off on a power trip and continuously becomes a generally disliked character. An online critical essay by Christopher Caldwell summarizes this by saying, "it is characteristic of Widmerpool's can-do attitude that he hates the Poles for raising a fuss about the Katyn Forest massacre." Overall, Powell accurately portrays the gruesome details of Katyn massacre and expresses his own feelings through his characters.

Bibliography:

"Katyn Massacre." Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. 2007. http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1B1-368977.html

Coatney, Louis Robert. THE KATYN MASSACRE: AN ASSESSMENT OF ITS SIGNIFICANCE AS A PUBLIC AND HISTORICAL ISSUE IN THE UNITED STATES AND GREAT BRITAIN, 1940-1993: A Thesis Presented to the Department of History Western Illinois University. December 1993

Trueman, Chris. "The Katyn Wood Massacre." History Learning Site. 2000-2008. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/katyn_wood_massacre.html

The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 31-42 http://www.vho.org/GB/Journals/JHR/1/1/FitzGibbon31-42.html

Powell, Anthony. Faces in My Time. New York. 1980 p.144 (found by Mr. Gould!)

Caldwell, Christopher. "Anthony Powell's Century; Britain's novelist of manners turns 100." (Critical essay). 2005.http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-143832513.html





Deliberate Bitterness: The Calculated Cruelty of Pamela Flitton

Corey Simpson


      There are several characters in A Dance to the Music of Time whom we all love to hate. Nick, at least in thought, has little tolerance for malice, especially as it affects his friends; notable offenders include Audrey Maclintick, Widmerpool, and, most recently, Pamela Flitton. In the area of people Nick dislikes, however, Pamela has created her own category. Her particular brand of hard-heartedness surpasses the insensitivity of Audrey and the callousness of Widmerpool-she is vicious and, worse, she is well aware of it.

      Widmerpool's comments and actions often make us cringe, but his behavior stems from his complete self-centeredness. His greatest desire is power, and he will do whatever it takes to attain it. If that means belittling his colleagues and stabbing them in the back, he will do so without hesitation. His indifference to the suffering of others is disturbing, but we are always able to trace his behavior back to his thirst for power. Even the incidents that would seem to have no motive, such as his direct involvement in the deaths of Stringham and Templer, can be seen as an attempt to soothe his own ego; one of the first things we learn about Widmerpool is how he is mocked by the other boys at Eton, and he undoubtedly saw his later power over two of them as a perfect opportunity to exact revenge. His misdeeds are conscious, but self-absorbed.

      Audrey Maclintick, on the other hand, is simply possessed of a supreme tactlessness. She never hesitates to voice her opinions, whether they are on the Spanish Civil War or her husband's taste in evening wear. She is overly critical, insensitive, vengeful, and controlling, but she positively melts under flattery. Her less admirable qualities were probably exaggerated by her unhappy marriage, and her actions, like Widmerpool's, can be traced to a probable cause.

      Pamela Flitton is different. We have only seen her in a few scenes, but what we have witnessed makes it difficult to dismiss her with the same contempt we feel for Widmerpool and Audrey. Everything she does makes us uncomfortable, because it is nearly impossible to determine a motive other than a desire to hurt people. Even more disturbing is her reckless disregard for herself; she tries to seduce almost everyone she comes into contact with, but never displays even a hint of affection for anyone. She is cold, detached, and manipulative, claiming that Templer was the nicest man she ever knew when, in fact, she sneered at his age and sent him away, and was at least partially responsible for his death. She mentions that she was close to Stringham when she was a little girl, but even Nick thinks she is probably lying. She clings to Prince Theodoric in public, not because she has any feelings for him, but because she aims to damage his reputation by indirectly confirming the rumors of an affair.

      Pamela's indifference and lack of real emotion make her a fascinating character. At the end of The Military Philosophers, we learn of her marriage to Widmerpool, whom she clearly loathes. It is clear that Widmerpool will benefit; his home life will probably be a living hell, but the addition of a beautiful wife will do credit to his carefully crafted image. That leaves us to wonder why Pamela would agree to marry him, when she could probably ensnare the man of her choosing; and what, if anything, has made her so deeply and inflexibly bitter.





The London Bridge Keeps Falling Down:
The Cyclical Nature of its History and Nursery Rhyme

Cassidy Carpenter


London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down,
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair Lady.


Build it up with wood and clay,
Wood and clay, wood and clay,
Build it up with wood and clay,
My fair Lady.


Wood and clay will wash away,
Wash away, wash away,
Wood and clay will wash away,
My fair Lady.


Build it up with bricks and mortar,
Bricks and mortar, bricks and mortar,
Build it up with bricks and mortar,
My fair Lady.


Bricks and mortar will not stay,
Will not stay, will not stay,
Bricks and mortar will not stay,
My fair Lady.


Build it up with iron and steel,
Iron and steel, iron and steel,
Build it up with iron and steel,
My fair Lady.


Iron and steel will bend and bow,
Bend and bow, bend and bow,
Iron and steel will bend and bow,
My fair Lady.


Build it up with silver and gold,
Silver and gold, silver and gold,
Build it up with silver and gold,
My fair Lady.


Silver and gold will be stolen away,
Stolen away, stolen away,
Silver and gold will be stolen away,
My fair Lady.


Set a man to watch all night,
Watch all night, watch all night,
Set a man to watch all night,
My fair Lady.


Suppose the man should fall asleep,
Fall asleep, fall asleep,
Suppose the man should fall asleep?
My fair Lady.


Give him a pipe to smoke all night,
Smoke all night, smoke all night,
Give him a pipe to smoke all night,
My fair Lady.

           (http://www.rhymes.org.uk/london-bridge-is-falling-down.htm)


      On the first page of the third chapter of Military Philosophers Nick refers to the nursery rhyme "London Bridge is Falling Down. " Though most children are familiar with the first stanza, it is in fact twelve stanzas long and has a history shrouded by mystery and superstition. The bridge about which the poem revolves has been found to contain the bones of small children within its mortar to please the water spirits which the bridge disturbed during its construction. The history of the London Bridge is one of disaster and reconstruction which has influcenced the cyclical nature of the famous nursery rhyme. The original bridge was constructed out of wood by the Romans around 50 AD. Still in virtually the exact location as its initial location across the river Thames, the bridge has undergone many transformations over the last 2,000 years with a history of being destroyed and rebuilt. In 1091 a F4 Tornado tore through the bridge and was destroyed yet again in 1136 by a fire. In 1176 under the direction of King Henry II the bridge began its 33 year reconstruction. The bridge was finished in 1209 under King John who decided to build house and shops on the bridge, see artist's etching bellow.

London Bridge

(Wikipedia)


      The northern gate of the bridge gained notoriety for its display of the heads of traitors. The greatest danger of this arrangement was of death by fire or drowning. These fears were realized in 1212 when fires broke out simultaneously on either side of the bridge, trapping nearly 3,000 people. Another fire in 1633 destroyed the northern third of the bridge but also prevented the bridge from being burned in The Great Fire of London in 1666. By 1722 the congestion on the bridge was so severe that the Lord Mayor proclaimed that all coaches going north must stay on the east side and all the coaches going south must stay on the west. This has been cited as one of the principle reasons that the British drive on the left side of the road. Finally , to finish off the 18th century, from 1758-62 the houses were removed from atop the bridge and two center arches bellow were replaced with one arch spanning the entire bridge. By the 19th century it had become clear that the bridge needed to be replaced. In 1799 a competition for new designs was held. John Rennie's £2,000,000 design was built 100 feet upstream from the original bridge. His faulty design caused the bridge to sink an inch every eight years. The new London Bridge is pictured in its new location in 1890:

Old London Bridge

(Wikipedia)


      By 1924 the east side of the bridge was three to four inches lower than the west. In April 1968, an American entrepreneur bought the bridge and transported it in pieces back to America. The bridge was reconstructed in Lake Havasu City, Arizona and rededicated it in 1971. During this time in London British contractors were working to build the modern day London Bridge which is in the same location as Rennie's bridge. The bridge was completed in 1972 at a cost of £4 million. In 1984 the HMS Jupiter collided with the London Bridge causing significant damage to both the bridge and the ship. On Rememberance Day twenty years later, red lighting was added to the bridge to prevent collision by airplane or boat. The modern day bridge is pictured below.

New London Bridge

(David Williams, 2005, Wikipedia)


      The simple nursery rhyme, mimics the constant destruction and rebuilding of this famous bridge. From its original construction in 50 AD the bridge has transition from wood, to stone, to modern materials of steal and concrete. The poem first suggests to the reader to prevent the bridge from falling down, to build it with "wood and clay," then "bricks and mortar," next with "iron and steel," and finally, "silver and gold." Though the construction has not moved to the forth stage of silver and gold, the British have taken the advice of the rhyme to get a metaphorical watchman. Now that fires and drownings are problems of the past, modern treats of collision with ships and aircraft are prevented with red lighting lining the bridge. The small children playing the London Bridge hand game and signing the rhyme may not draw these parallels, but its historical correlation with the history of the bridge is obvious. After Nick flippantly refers to the London bridge he comments how "now death had undergone so man." He must be aware of the symbolism of destruction and rebuilding that has permeated throughout The Military Philosophers and the whole of Nick's life.

Sources:

http://www.rhymes.org.uk/london-bridge-is-falling-down.htm
http://nurseryrhymes.allinfoabout.com/London_Bridge.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Bridge
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/23982/history_of_london_bridge_from_the_fire.html?page=2&cat=16






Pluto: Not Just the Planet we Loved

Mike Donelan


      During Nick Jenkins' and Finn's duties of accompanying the military attachés to France, one of Finn's concerns is that while at sea or on land, they will run into Pluto or the Pipe Line Under The Ocean. This pipeline did actually exist and it played an important role in the success of the Allied forces during the war, especially as they were preparing to storm the beaches of Normandy. Operation Pluto was conducted by British scientists, in cooperation with oil companies and armed forces during World War II. It would allow the flow of fuel between France and England via the English Channel, as the Allied forces needed an extraordinary amount of fuel to operate effectively throughout Europe. The idea was that Pluto would alleviate the dependence on oil tankers which were targeted by German submarines and were easily delayed by bad weather. These tankers were also needed in the Pacific as the Allied forces, mainly the United States, were fighting a war on two fronts.

Pluto
(Photo: Isle of Wight Council)

      Testing of the plans for the pipeline's use began in June 1942 with the laying of pipe across the Firth of Clyde. The project was deemed 'strategically important, tactically adventurous, and, from the industrial point of view, strenuous'. Pluto was originally brought into the plans for the initial Allied invasion of Europe, but there were no ships that were big enough or had the necessary equipment to lay down the piping. The first pipeline laid for use was on August 12, 1944 about a month and a half after the execution of Operation Overlord. Much of the construction of the pipelines connecting to Pluto was done at night to avoid detection by German aerial recon. The pump stations were also put in inconspicuous buildings such as cottages, garages, and even an ice-cream shop. This shows that the operation was indeed secretive so Finn's maniacal concern that the military attachés would see the equipment is justified: "We had blundered on a kind of junction of Plutonic equipment. Finn must have instantaneously seen that too. He rushed towards the installation, as if unable to contain himself - perhaps no simulation - taking up his stand in such as place that it would have been doubtful manners to pass in front of him." (TMP 158)

      While none of the representatives from Allied countries seem to take notice of the equipment that Finn is so desperately trying to hide, it is understandable why he would want to shield it from their view. If it had been discovered the Axis of Evil could have attacked it and done serious damage to one of the most important technological innovations that led to the Allied victory. From the time Pluto became functional in August of 1944 to VE Day on May 7, 1945, over 172 million imperial gallons of fuel was pumped to Allied forces all over Europe, which was integral to the successful completion of the campaign and ending World War II.

Bibliography

Wikipedia, Operation Pluto, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Pluto. February 25, 2008, April 15, 2008.

Isle of Wight Council, Islander's Stories, http://www.iwight.com/images/pic2.jpg 2008. April 15, 2008.





Above and Below Ground: Nick's Place in the Army

John Bukawyn


      In the corporate world of America, Britain, and elsewhere the general consensus seems to be the higher up the more illustrious your job. During World War II, however, the order completely reversed. Due to the constant blitzes, V1s, and V2s living or working towards the top of a building meant great risk. In The Military Philosophers, by Anthony Powell, this is the case. With important and secret work below ground and meaningless tidbits near the top, the British army took these measures to protect themselves from serious blows. In this hierarchy, Nick seems to be right in the middle: above most, but also below many.

      As Nick climbs the stairs to the higher levels, on which lives "the Civil branches and their subsidiaries, Finance, Internal Administration, Passive Air Defence, all diminishing in official prestige as the altitude steepened," (38) he prepares for Blackhead. Blackhead, one of the most infamous characters in The Military Philosophers, deals with simple issues and is quite a nuisance to get through. Nick brings to his agenda the matter of "restrictions on straw for hospital palliasses" (38) in Scotland. This issue is completely irrelevant to the war being fought on continental Europe and is simply unnecessary to discuss. This, however, is not the only unrelated material that Blackhead deals with. Whether it is the Belgian Women's Corps looking for a bicycle or the Norwegian military attaché seeking office furniture, it goes through Blackhead's office (42). Being placed in "a rookery of lesser activities" (38) near the attic of Nick's building, Blackhead's work is relatively insignificant and far from any truly important business.

      On the opposite side of the spectrum, in the basement, rather imperative and high security matters are discussed. As Nick replaces Pennistone, his senior officer, he sits in on a meeting to discuss the release of Polish officers from Russia. On his way there Nick describes his surroundings, saying that a marine, "showed [him] into a room in the bowels of earth…a brightly lit dungeon" (11-12). Sunny Farebrother makes similar comments: "Can't tell whether it's three o'clock in the morning, or three o'clock in the afternoon. No disturbance from time" (14). Nick and Farebrother are so far beneath ground that neither sun nor bomb penetrates into the basement, making it a safe place to conduct serious and important business. Once Widmerpool enters the room the men begin to discuss the matters at hand. Once the issue of the Poles has concluded, some men, including Nick, are required to leave with Widmerpool's snide comments: "I have some highly secretive matters to deal with on the next agenda. I can't begin on them with people like you hanging about the room" (16). Here Widmerpool illustrates the importance of the topics discussed in the basements of buildings.

      With a second floor office, Nick is physically in between the two opposing ends. He is situated right in between Blackhead's perch and Widmerpool's dungeon. Working with the Poles and later the Belgians, Nick's own agenda simply seems like it would be more important than Blackhead's soap issues, but also less important than that of Widmerpool's secretive affairs. By discussing the matter of straw with Blackhead and also conversing about the Poles with Widmerpool, Nick shows that he is the middle man. When dealing with the subject of bringing the Belgians to train in England Nick takes the information from Kucherman, the Belgian Military attaché, directly to Colonel Finn, Nick's superior officer, and then to Blackhead. Again, Nick acts as the middle man in this issue.


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