What Price Glory? Themes

Themes and Meanings (Survey of Dramatic Literature)

What Price Glory? depicts war in its brutal, bloody reality; yet, through Maxwell Anderson and Laurence Stallings’s characters, the play ends on a romantic note. Thus, the play becomes a realistic appraisal of the romance inherent in armed conflict. Even for modern playgoers, the play is rough, violent, and brutal. All the characters in Captain Flagg’s company have long abandoned any sense of the nobility of soldiering; the war has become senseless, meaningless, and mundane. This lack of control over their lives compels them, in their few hours of independence, to abandon any sense of morality and virtue. They use profanity without hesitation; they drink to excess; they womanize without any consideration of feminine virtue. However, when the call to battle is sounded, they quickly and unhesitantly respond.

Contemporary reviews of What Price Glory? have gone so far as to call this human reaction to war tragic. Thus, Laurence Stallings and Maxwell Anderson see the most important aspect of war as not the carnage and the destruction itself but the senseless reaction that human beings have to the brutality of war. In essence, the authors have made war a symbol for the anarchy and senselessness of human existence. The entire battle in which Captain Flagg’s company engages in act 2 could have been avoided, they later learn. All the fury of armed conflict thus becomes action without purpose.

It would seem that this radical (for...

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