James Jones was born in 1921 in Robinson, Illinois. He joined the U.S. Army in 1939 and served in New York and Puerto Rico. In December, 1941, he was stationed in Hawaii, making him the only major American writer to witness the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Jones won the National Book Award in 1951 and moved to France in 1959. He spent much of the rest of his life in Paris but identified as an American. He died in 1977. He wrote novels and short stories. Among his novels, the World War II trilogy—consisting of From Here to Eternity, The Thin Red Line (1962), and Whistle (1978)—is the most notable. From Here to Eternity is the novel for which he is mostly remembered. Film adaptations were made of From Here to Eternity, The Thin Red Line, and Jones’s second novel, Some Came Running (1957).
In Jones’s fiction, individuals find themselves fighting against faceless institutions and unstoppable natural forces to gain a sense of identity. In the novels, foot soldiers confront Army bureaucracy and incompetent officers. Known mostly as a writer of war fiction, Jones recycled many characters in his novels. For example, Prewitt, Warden, and Stark in From Here to Eternity all reappear as essentially the same characters with different names in The Thin Red Line and Whistle. This unity of character types and theme allows readers to approach each of Jones’s novels as one element in a larger whole.
Realistic in its treatment of Army life, From Here to Eternity is considered Jones’s best novel. It includes many vivid and memorable scenes, including those in which Prewitt fights against the Army machine for a sense of identity, its brutal stockade scenes, and finally the attack on Pearl Harbor. The text’s realist effect...
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