How does Robert Westall use effective characterization to explore the effects of war on the civilian population? I'm having great difficulty with this question, Please help! :)

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janeyb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well to answer that question, you have to look at the characters and what the represent. Constant exposure to the atrocities of war forces the main characters in The Machine Gunners to grow up too quickly. Chas McGill, the narrator, attempts to survive in a confusing world by exercising some control over his corner of Garmouth. His inability to remain a passive child in the face of terror results in his transition from a naive collector of war souvenirs to a stoic overseer of an underground fortress.
The young people in this novel learn that love and respect for individuals is more powerful than the hatred of figurative enemies encouraged by wartime propaganda. The war confuses and corrupts the values of these young people, leading them to lie and steal in the belief that their survival depends on these activities. Out of desperation, they decide to take control of their own lives.
By using teenagers to tell the story, Westall effectively shows the effects of war on the whole population, from their parents, to other schoolmates, to teachers and friends.

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The Machine Gunners

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