Places Discussed

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No Man’s Land

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 members of his unit, leaps to his feet in the face of heavy machine-gun fire.

Martin’s Point

Martin’s Point. Town on the English Channel where George spends his school days and develops his initial artistic aspirations. Aldington modeled the town on his youthful memories of Dover.


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Bergonzi, Bernard. Heroes’ Twilight: A Study of the Literature...

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of the Great War. New York: Coward, McCann, 1966. Bergonzi devotes several pages of this readable and wide-ranging study to Death of a Hero, arguing that the novel suffers from the author’s lack of detachment from his subject.

Doyle, Charles. “Port-Cros and After, 1928-1929.” In Richard Aldington: A Biography. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989. Includes a substantial, balanced discussion of Death of a Hero, with critical commentary on its principal themes and literary merits. Acknowledges the stylistic flaws but argues that the novel was essential work to the “imaginative reconstruction” of the war.

McGreevy, Thomas. Richard Aldington: An Englishman. London: Chatto & Windus, 1931. McGreevy, a personal friend of Aldington, includes an extensive, if rather subjective, study of Death of a Hero. Focuses on the novel’s formal characteristics.

Morris, John. “Richard Aldington and Death of a Hero—or Life of an Anti-Hero?” In The First World War in Fiction: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Holger Klein. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1977. Judicious and attentive critique of the novel, with a particular focus on the problems of satiric tone.

Smith, Richard Eugene. Richard Aldington. Boston: Twayne, 1977. An accessible introduction to Aldington’s life and works. Includes a chapter on Death of a Hero and a useful bibliography of criticism to 1976.


Critical Essays