Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The Face of War is a collection of articles about several wars Martha Gellhorn on which reported after becoming a war correspondent in Spain in 1937. The book is divided into sections on wars in Spain, Finland, Europe (World War II), Java, Vietnam, the Middle East, and Central America, plus a section called “Interim,” which is about efforts for peace. The 1988 American edition of The Face of War includes the original 1959 introduction and a revised introduction published in the 1986 British edition. Each section of the book also comes with its own introduction, usually presenting autobiographical information that explains how Gellhorn came to cover these wars as well as fascinating insights into her attitude toward war, in the course of which she reveals many other aspects of her life and her feelings about writing.

Gellhorn thinks of herself as a war correspondent first, not as a woman writer. Inevitably, however, she finds herself in a male-dominated world and must contend with prejudices against allowing women to report at first hand on combat. She explains how she resorted to various stratagems in order to cover the D-Day landing on the beaches of Normandy in World War II and the Allied campaign in Italy in the later stages of that war.

The contrast between Gellhorn’s introductions and her reportorial articles is fascinating. In the introductions she is opinionated and confidential; in the articles she is objective,...

(The entire section is 547 words.)