Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tales of the South Pacific. James Michener. (2)

New York: Fawcett
1946 (1974)

Ideas and Quotes for Discussion:
"I wish I could tell you about the sweating jungle, the full moon rising behind the volcanoes and the waiting. The waiting. The timeless, repetitive waiting."

" 'Why hell!' the Major snorted. 'Seems all he did was sit on his ass and wait.' "
" 'That's exactly it!' I cried...."

Dinah: "No wonder I never got married. I guess God made a mistake and gave me a brain."

"Great lights flashed through the dark waters. Japs and their ships were destroyed without mercy. Our men did not lust after the killing. But when you've been through the mud of Guadal and been shelled by the Japs night after night until your teeth ached; when you've seen the dead from your cruisers piled...and your planes shot down and your men dying from foes they've never seen; when you've seen good men wracked with malaria but still slugging it out in the jungle...."

The "remittance man," a nondescript, but courageous Englishman, a coast watcher who reported to the Americans on Jap troop and ship movements, is shot, tortured and slaughtered by the Japs: "American peoper! You die!"

"Suicide runs--you get some Nips, but you lose some bombers and their crews. And eventually, you can bomb with impunity--they're the milk runs."

"If you sit at home and read that two hundred and eighty-one men die in taking an island, the number is only a symbol for the mind to classify. But when you stand at the white crosses, the two hundred and eighty-one dead become men: the sons, the husbands and the lovers."

"I wondered where the men would come from to take Commander Hoag's place. Throughout the Pacific, in Russia, in Africa, and soon on fronts not yet named, good men were dying. Who would take their place? Who would marry the girls they would have married? Or build the buildings they would have built? Were there men at home ready to do Hoag's job? And Cable's? And Tony Fry's?"

"It was then I learned that Harbison had been saved in a life raft. He spent most his time expressing his desire to fight the Japs. But when his unit was about to be moved up to take the island of Kuralei, he arranged in four days to have himself sent back to New Mexico for 'rest and rehabilitation.' He thus avoided the slaughter."

Chaplain: "Brave people are dying throughout the world. And brave people live after them."

Officer, Captain Kelley, creates the discipline that will help when the men are involved in war. "We will shortly be faced with responsibilities almost beyond our capacity to perform. At that time there will be no place for weaklings." But he uses humiliation and "chicken shit'" as his preponderant tool for achieving that discipline. In the process, he breaks the spirit of the unit.

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