The Bridge Over The River Kwaii

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade April 2001

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Way too often, the classic books that you read in school are incredibly boring stories which don't even seem to be written well. Pierre Boulle's The Bridge Over the River Kwaii is one of the few books which breaks this pattern of "classic bore syndrome." The story had well developed characters, a unique plot line, and was all around exciting.

The Bridge Over the River Kwaii is a story about British soldiers during World War II who were captured and held prisoner. The were placed in a camp where their assignment was to build a bridge over the Kwaii river so a train could pass over it. Colonel Nicholson was the commander of the British soldiers, and Colonel Saito was the Japanese commander. Saito had to make sure that the bridge would be completed on time, so he had to sometimes put his high sense of pride behind him and give in to requests made by Nicholson and his men.

Shears, an American who had also gotten captured by the Japanese, managed to escape from the prison camp, and became part of a team who would come back at the end of the book to demolish the bridge.

The interesting characters make a story come to life. This holds true with The Bridge Over the River Kwaii. Colonel Nicholson was a stubborn man, but always managed to get what he wanted by the end. This ends up having a major effect on the story because Colonel Saito also is an incredibly stubborn person, but still knows what needs to happen for his success. You can see how throughout the story Saito's strong-headedness slowly dies away, along with his pride. Other characters in the story, who don't even have major roles, are still very well developed. An example would be Major Hughes who is one of the British officers. Along with his military experience comes his vast knowledge of engineering, which is used when the British take over the command of the bridge building project.

The plot line of The Bridge Over the River Kwaii is certainly not the common World War II story plot line. Unique twists are added which make it an even more exciting story. For example, Colonel Saito insists that all of the British must partake in the manual labor of building the bridge, including the officers. Colonel Nicholson refuses to have his officers doing manual labor, which creates a conflicts that essentially wastes a month of the much-needed time they were given to complete the building of the bridge.

The best element of this story is the excitement. Throughout the entire book you are trying to think of what Saito could do next, or of Nicholson's stubbornness will get him put in the sweat tank again. You almost feel as if you were involved in the story, as if you were one of the soldiers being enslaved and forced to work. An example of this is when Saito has a machine-gunner aiming at Nicholson and his officers and is counting to three. You just want Nicholson to give in to the Japanese commands, but you don't think that he will. Then finally the pressure is relieved from the situation when Clipton runs out and stops Saito from having them shot. You can feel the relief in your own body just as if the gun had been pointed at you.

In conclusion, The Bridge Over the Rive Kwaii was a great book. All of the elements which make great stories; the characters, plot line, and entertainment, were all well done and exceeded the common expectations of a classic book. The book was well written; it had enough detail to keep from being plain, but not too much to make the reader loose interest. I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes a quick read that you just can't put down.