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No Man’s Land

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No Man’s Land. Constantly shifting zone between the trenches of the opposing combatants on the French battlefront. This realm of fearsome devastation represents the nightmarish consequences of political blindness and the misapplication of technology. Soldiers struggling here face elemental agony, terror, and exhaustion, and George is transformed by this experience. Upon returning to London, he is appalled by the ignorance and superficiality of those who have not seen the war at first hand. The intense bitterness shared by George and the novel’s narrator is a pessimistic response to the naïve or egotistical optimism of Great Britain’s prewar generation. Although George learns to value comradeship in the trenches, he is also constantly reminded of the diminished value of human life in this environment. The tremendous strain of staying alive finally makes his life intolerable. No Man’s Land is a place of sudden fragmentation of life, of Nature, of architecture, and, finally, of George’s sanity, and its image dominates the novel as an emblem of the mindless suffering generated by human stupidity.

Hill 91

Hill 91. Hotly contested area of No Man’s Land marked by extreme devastation. George notes that possession of such areas is largely a matter of “prestige.”


*Dorsetshire. Rural county of southwest England that George and Elizabeth Winterbourne visit in their happier days. Later, George is sent to undergo officers’ training (along with the narrator) at this same place.


Dullborough. Located near Martin’s Point, this is where George attends “The School,” and develops an antipathy for conventional perspectives.


*London. Great Britain’s capital city, to which George goes after being forced from his parents’ home by their obtuse expectations. He survives there by writing articles and meets members of influential circles within the literary world as he pursues a career in painting. His writing career is based largely upon the actual experience of author Richard Aldington in prewar London; several characters in this novel are thus fictionalized versions of people whom Aldington knew, and many of the novel’s London locations reflect places where he lived or which he frequented. George’s friends represent literary London, and as he confronts the reality of the war in France, he increasingly sees the London literati as pretentious and irrelevant.

*Hampton Court

*Hampton Court. Tudor palace on the banks of the River Thames, west of London, built by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and later used by King Henry VIII. The novel’s generally negative picture of artistic and political London is quietly counterpoised by a passage that emphasizes Aldington’s own profound regard for the great city. In the early stages of their affair, George and Elizabeth visit Hampton Court, where they feast their eyes on the magnificent flowers growing in the gardens. This scene forms a significant contrast to the desolation George encounters in France, where he later notices the absence of flowers on the battlefield.


M-. Ruined town on the French battlefront where George is stationed. It is a particularly dangerous place because it is a regular target of heavy artillery.

Maison Blanche

Maison Blanche. French village near which George is killed. Although the Germans are retreating and the Allies are winning the war, George, who has just lost several...

(The entire section contains 812 words.)

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Critical Essays