Is there a message about peace in the novel?

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rweeks123 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, there is a message about peace woven throughout The Once and Future King. In “The Sword in the Stone,” a critique of war emerges when Merlyn references Hitler: 

“‘Very interesting,’ he said in a trembling voice. ‘Very interesting. There was just such a man when I was young—an Austrian who invented a new way of life and convinced himself that he was the chap to make it work. He tried to impose his reformation by the sword, and plunged the civilized world into misery and chaos” (White 266-7). 

In this passage, Merlyn critiques Hitler’s ideology and its alarming impact on the entire globe. Merlyn’s anachronistic statement also functions as a critique of medieval times when he states that Hitler attempted to “impose his reformation by the sword” (White 266-7). By referencing a sword—a form of weaponry that brings to mind images of medieval knights and archaic battles—Merlyn highlights his disapproval of the “might is right” flavor of philosophy that punctuated the medieval times as well as much of the novel. Thus, Merlyn’s statement serves as a double-edged sword, critiquing war and violence in both modern and medieval periods. Taking T. H. White’s own pacifism into account, we can also view Merlyn as White’s mouthpiece during this emotionally charged moment in the text.


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The Once and Future King

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