Update on From Here to Eternity
Since this book is a hefty 850 pages, and I am about 1/3 of the way through, I thought I would update everyone to let you know how it’s going.
From Here to Eternity is touted as a World War II book, but so far it’s different than most traditional ‘war’ books in that it describes the peacetime activities of servicemen in Schofield Barracks, located in Wahiawa, Hawaii. During the rainy season, regular outdoor exercise and drills were suspended, so the men engaged in lectures and weapons drills. To keep entertained after-hours, the men hung out, played cards, gambled, drank, and chased women (and sometimes men), usually spending (or overspending) their entire paychecks in one night on any of the above.
Robert E. Lee Prewitt is an amazing bugler, who decides to leave the easy life of the bugle corps for straight duty as a soldier after a less-talented bugler is promoted over him. Prewitt is also an amazing boxer, but after blinding someone in his last fight, has sworn off boxing forever. That’s a big problem for Prewitt. During the monotony of peacetime, the Army regiments kept adrenaline and corps morale up by competing against each other in sports, like boxing, baseball and basketball. Soldiers who participated on these sports teams were referred to as ‘jockstraps’ and were usually given preferential treatment and/or promotions more consistently than the others. The unit Prewitt transfers into is desperately seeking his help on the boxing squad, but once Prewitt makes it clear that he will not box, he seals his own fate. The officers begin to give Prewitt “the treatment”, consisting of physical and psychological punishments designed to break him and force him to reconsider boxing. Prewitt, however, holds his ground, and is so far surviving okay, even though they’re beating the crap out of him.
Like Prewitt, First Lieutenant Milton Warden is a principle-bound soldier. Although he’s second in command, he practically runs the regiment, helping out everyone from the supply room guy to the kitchen cooks. His CO, “Dynamite” Holmes, has the unfortunate propensity to promote his ‘jockstrap’ soldiers or soldiers from his previous regiment to leadership positions, even though some of them lack any leadership talent. This leaves Warden the difficulty of running the regiment with doubtful and inconsistent help, but he somehow manages to keep things going smoothly. Unfortunately, like Prewitt, Warden seems to have a taste for the dangerous, because he makes the dumb move of getting involved with his CO’s wife, the ice-cold Karen Holmes, who, it is reputed, has had affairs with many of the other officers. That just cannot turn out well for anyone.
The book has plenty of suspense. I find myself silently begging Prew to just give in and box so that he doesn’t have to suffer, but at the same time, I admire his integrity and resolve. I worry what is to come for Prewitt, and how far the military will go to break him. And I sure hope Warden doesn’t get caught with Karen. That could get ugly.