The Cruise of The Breadwinner Analysis

H. E. Bates

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In the early days of World War II, Bates was commissioned to write a series of stories under the pseudonym “Flying Officer X” to publicize the quiet heroism of the Battle of Britain pilots. By the end of the war, however, he had seen enough of war’s destruction, and this story is indicative of his new perception. The “Flying Officer X” stories were not entirely romantic, but in “The Cruise of The Breadwinner,” Bates employs his most grimly realistic manner to the subject of war and its dehumanization. Like his earlier stories, “The Ox” and “The Mill,” this one is marked by Bates’s unrelenting starkness of vision and style. In clear, pictorial prose, Bates describes the laughably fragile boat, the ineffectual Lewis gun, the devastation wrought by the strafing German airplane, and the lingering, painful deaths of the two young pilots, who might, except for the accidents of war, have become friends. In direct contrast to the passages of destruction and death are the descriptions of the characters. Gregson is first depicted as tough and confident, but his jingoistic patriotism, like Snowy’s innocence, melts into common human caring because of the pilots’ deaths. The two young pilots, only a few years older than Snowy, are presented as willing but tragic participants in a war they did not cause. Brooding over the events of the story is indifferent nature, which first provides a “good day” for flying, then a storm that threatens the lives of them all. In short, Bates employs his most incisive, vivid style to describe his characters and their sufferings, depicting all of them as victims of forces beyond their control.