Jacklinn Bennett
ENG 570
February 5, 2009

Follow the Flag?

After Rotheram finishes watching Triumph of the Will, he says, “if he could, he would want nothing more than to join the Nazis” (4). The night before D-Day, Ester “yearns to be British, tonight of all nights” (29), and from the stockade on a Normandy beach, Karsten “feels an odd pull . . . all those men flowing in one direction . . . and he wishes he could follow that column of men” (69). It seems to me that this overwhelming desire to join with a force larger than oneself is more than just outsiders wanting to fit into the crowd. We see this more typical individual response with Jim’s efforts to fit in with the local Welsh boys. With Rotheram, Ester and Karsten, Davies seems to be describing some much more irresistible imperative, some indefinable momentum that pulls people in and drags them along in spite of themselves and their own best interests. What might Davies be suggesting about human and mass psychology? Considering what force seems to be appealing to each character, what might Davies be saying about politics, nationalism and the military (recognizing that there’s a certain amount of overlap in my categories)? What accommodation will each character reach with such forces?

Kyle Gray
Stephan Flores
Brit Fiction
Judging Eyes

We can find it in each of the four chapters this week. Whether it’s the adopting family calling Jack a “slum kid”, Karsten being looked at as less of a man for not revealing his rank, or even Jack criticizing a one eyed sheep there is always someone thinking they are better than someone else. Even Esther, who shows nothing but compassion for Jack, ridicules the boy for bringing lice into her mothers home. These judgments can be taken at face value many times considering the fact that there is a clear cut case of class superiority in the book, especially in regards to being Welsh or Jewish.
But the judgments that interest me more are the ones that seem to be passed in order to divert blame. We have Karsten agreeing to pass the blame of capture to the officers even though he himself is one. We have Esther passing the blame of not being with Rhys to Rhys even if it is only in the slightest sense. And an odd one is Esther passing some of the blame of the rape from Colin onto herself. What is it that Davies is working toward with these? Is it representative of the blame of the war itself? Or is it maybe looking deeper at the blame of the repression of people? Could this be referring to the Holocaust?

Joe Roberts
How the Word Cynefin Makes Me the Alien
Peter Ho Davies has obviously drawn a comparison between the Welsch and their flocks. Arthur explains to Esther the concept of cynefin—“the flock’s sense of place, of territory” (86). How does this relate to the Welsch? Cynefin also holds a special place in Welsch culture, “because the English don’t have a word for it.” How does language relate to identity in this novel, not just for the Welsch, but also for Rotheram? Does the concept of cynefin relate to the displaced refugee children, such as Jim? Esther finds out that cynefin is preserved through the females (87), which seems to contrast with the Welsch anthem “Mae hen wlad fy nhadau” or “Land of my Fathers” (94). Is this contrast reconciled? Does it foreshadow a greater role of women in Wales, in Europe, in the world?