John W. Crawford (review date 1923)
SOURCE: “A Malicious Panorama,” in The Nation, Vol. 117, No. 3028, 1923, p. 66.
[In the following review, Crawford calls Through the Wheat “a remarkable first novel” despite a disappointing ending.]
War is a panorama of “grim comic imbecility” to the eyes of Mr. Boyd's character Hicks. Toplofty idealism is brought into the picture, only to be shattered by a barrage of deftest malice. A pompous captain, with a Napoleonic vision, or a zealous top sergeant, actuated by a crusading delusion, becomes helplessly ridiculous in the face of a platoon of unimpressed and “kidding” soldiers. The antithesis is given a more sharply ironic twist in the spectacle of men under fire becoming vocal in photographically trivial conversation about mail, food, and cigarettes. The popular sentimentalism of a bitter and personal hatred for the Germans is dismissed with a hilarious gesture:
Possibly for an hour during his whole life he [Hicks] had hated the German army. Now he only disliked them. And for one reason: because they marched in a goose-step. He felt that for any people to march in that manner was embarrassing to the rest of humanity.
The author permits himself a broader view than would be provided through the personality of Hicks. Mr. Boyd takes a dive into the mental processes of a subordinate character to heighten the absurdity of his self-importance and his...
(The entire section is 617 words.)