Conflicts in the book fighting ground?

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As I understand it, you're referring to the young adult novel The Fighting Ground by Avi. Conflict is indeed a major theme of the book, both internal and external. Indeed, much of the book's power derives from attempts by the main protagonist, Jonathan, to resolve the various conflicts with which he is confronted.

Appropriately enough, the story is set against the background of a major conflict, the American War of Independence. Jonathan, like many young men, is keen to prove his manhood and patriotism by signing up to fight the Redcoats. However, his father, himself a battle-scarred veteran of the war, refuses to let him go off to fight.

Here we see the first of a number of micro-conflicts, if you will, that take place throughout the book and which, like the War itself, the macro-conflict, raise profound moral questions. Jonathan wants to emulate the bravery of his father; his father, however, having been wounded and also having witnessed the horrors of battle, is equally adamant that Jonathan will not be permitted to risk his life. This passage of the book is of particular interest from a thematic standpoint as it illustrates the universality of both war and intergenerational conflict.

Jonathan's experiences of the sting of battle and his subsequent capture by Hessian mercenaries change him completely. They also induce a profound inner conflict which he must somehow attempt to resolve. For the first time, he now has some understanding of just how brutal and hellish armed conflict can be. The tragic testimony of the little boy concerning the death of his parents merely adds to a growing sense of disillusionment. Perhaps war's not so glorious after all.

Jonathan's confusion at the shock of capture is heightened still further by his experience at the hands of his Hessian captors. A young Hessian soldier allows the little boy to bury his parents. This small but significant expression of humanity is enough to force Jonathan to confront and challenge his negative perception of the "enemy." So much so, in fact, that he simply cannot bring himself to shoot the sleeping Hessians as he and the little boy subsequently make good their escape.

The ensuing conflict between Jonathan and the Colonel is hugely significant, not least because it could reasonably be construed as a metaphor for the conflict now raging within Jonathan's soul. The Colonel orders Jonathan to return to his place of confinement to kill the Hessians; Jonathan, however, is reluctant to do so, even when he discovers that the little boy's parents were executed as spies. In metaphorical terms the Colonel could be seen to represent Jonathan's former self, the over-enthusiastic young boy, desperate to prove himself in battle with the enemy and ready to kill. This is an intergenerational conflict once more, but this time the roles have been reversed.

At this stage in the story the physical, outer conflict of the war is almost of lesser importance than the internal moral struggle afflicting Jonathan. Even after being held as a human shield by the escaping enemy, Jonathan's disgust with the war is now total. He angrily destroys his gun and heads for home, completely disillusioned.

At the story's conclusion, Jonathan's inner conflict has been at least partially resolved. The boy has become like his father, but not in the way he originally envisaged.

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