In March, how does March’s attitude towards war change throughout the novel, focusing on key events that reshape his beliefs?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Chapter 11 is a key section of this novel that compars the idealism of March when he decides to go to war and then the knowledge that he gains through his first year that shakes his innocence to the very core, and challenges his beliefs and feelings, plunging him into a world where there are no moral absolutes and no moral certainties. Note how this chapter ends:

And now, a year has passed since I undertook to go to war, and I wake every day, sweating, in the solitude of the seed store at Oak Landing, to a condition of uncertainty... One day, I hope to go back. To my wife, to my girls, but also to the man of moral certainty that I was that day; that innocent man, who knew with such clear confidence exactly what it was that he was mean to do.

It is interesting to note how March describes himself both before and after he signed up to be involved in the war. Now, he is profoundly uncertain, and he does not know what it is that he is supposed to be doing. Before, however, he was a man of "moral certainty," who knew clearly his roles and responsibilities, but also was "innocent." It is highly significant that this quote comes just before the event that transformed March more than any other: the destruction of the cotton plantation, the murder of Ptolemy and the re-enslavement of some of the workers that March had been working with. March finds that his naive beliefs and certainty do not equip him to encounter a world characterised by evil and violence beyond his imagination.


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