Task: In "The Long and The Short and The Tall" Willis Hall uses irony and stereotyping to confound our expectations and make us change our opinion. Show how the playwright has used these techniques in the play to put across his message.
"The Long and The Short and The Tall" written by Willis Hall is about a group of conscripts from Britain during the Second World War. They are in the Malayan jungle on the lookout for Japanese activity because they are expecting an invasion. They stop to rest in a hut on a rubber plantation. While they are there a Japanese soldier stumbles upon the hut. He enters and they capture him. Johnstone, the patrol's Corporal, grabs the Japanese soldier and then tells the men to kill him. All the men refuse except Bamforth who is the only soldier willing to kill the Japanese soldier.
Mitchem, the patrol's Sergeant comes back from outside and tells Bamforth to stop because he has the idea that they can take him back to base and interrogate him for information. Then Whitaker hears the Japanese operator on the radio and they realise they are surrounded and that getting back will be dangerous. Mitchem then sees the prisoner as too much of a liability and wants to kill him. All the men then want to kill the prisoner to save themselves. By this time Bamforth has realised that the Japanese soldier is not sub-human, but is actually just like him. The prisoner is scared and needs a cigarette just like the British soldiers. One of the men, Whitaker panics and kills the Japanese prisoner with his gun. The gunshots alert the Japanese soldiers who make an advance on the hut and kill all the British soldiers except one, Johnstone who surrenders to the Japanese.
The title "The Long and The Short and The Tall" comes from the chorus of a song that was very popular during the Second World War, which praised the ordinary soldiers in the Army. The author, Willis Hall, makes the character's stereotypes by giving them key features. Smith is a stereotype because he has the most common name in England and is a middle-aged man from the Midlands. He is working class and lives in a council house, as he says: "Bit of a one. Council. Up on the new estate." That was when Evans was asking where he lived to find out more about him. Smith also does a bit of gardening. : "Few veg round the back- cabbages and that, Brussels, couple of rows of peas, one or two blooms. Not a lot. You know - the usual." He was also telling Evans about his hobbies, which include fishing, and gardening, which is stereotypical of a family man, with a wife and two children. When the prisoner is captured I expect Smith to have scruples about killing. He refuses to kill the prisoner.
The character Evans is a stereotype because he has the most common Welsh name. He is young and is still being cared for by his mother who sends him women's magazines to read: "My mother sends it to me every week. I'm following the serialÃ¢ÂÂ¦" He is working-class and also naÃÂ¯ve. Bamforth particularly impresses him because he thinks he is smart and sophisticated. Evans is quiet and gentle and is no match for Bamforth. Bamforth tells him that in a fight he would use dirty tactics to win and Evans is quite shocked at that and replies: "You wouldn't fight like that, Bammo" When the prisoner is captured I expected Evans to refuse to kill the prisoner. He lives up to these expectations by saying: "IÃ¢ÂÂ¦I can't do it, Corp." Macleish is a stereotype of a Scotsman because his name includes "Mac" which is very common in Scotland. He is also young and working class. He has recently been promoted which made him pompous as we see from his dialogue: "Ã¢ÂÂ¦I'll not stand for any of your insubordinations." He uses big words to make him feel more sophisticated than the other men. He is shown as violent and is ready to fight Bamforth: "As far as I'm concerned, I'll jack the tape tomorrow to drop you one on. And that's a promise Bamforth." Macleish is a stereotypical Scot as he is tough and aggressive. But he has a brother who might have been captured and might be a prisoner of war. When the Japanese soldier is captured he reacted the way I expected and wouldn't kill him. For all his aggression towards Bamforth, he is still a decent man. All the men are decent and they all refused to kill the prisoner and I wasn't surprised.
Whitaker is the opposite kind of person from Bamforth. Whitaker is gentle and Bamforth is cocky and aggressive especially when talking to Macleish, Bamforth says: "Go stuff your tape." Whitaker wants to be seen back home as a war hero, so is going to pretend he fought and got the souvenirs. He has collected lots of Japanese equipment. He buys this from the British soldiers: "Some Jap buttons and a couple of roundsÃ¢ÂÂ¦a nippo cap badge and a belt." Whereas Bamforth didn't want to be a hero. He says he would run: "What! If the yellow hordes where waving bayonets at me, I'd be off like a whipper. You'll not see my tail for dust." Whitaker never criticises anyone and Bamforth criticises everyone. When the prisoner is captured I expected Whitaker to refuse to kill him and I expected Bamforth to agree to kill the prisoner. Bamforth offers to do the killing: "Here. Give me hold. It's only the same as carving up a pig. Hold him still." The expectations that Willis Hall has created in Act One are confounded when the Japanese prisoner is to be killed in the second act. This scene shows Mitchem deciding to kill the prisoner because he is too much of a liability and they wouldn't be able to get back to camp with him as a member of the party. I thought I knew how each of the men would react to the suggestion that the prisoner should be killed. I thought Evans would refuse because he is religious and wants to obey the rules, just as he did when Bamforth is talking about fighting dirty: "You wouldn't fight like that, Bammo?" I wasn't surprised when he refused to kill the prisoner because he is a Christian and very innocent, as we saw in Act One: "I can't! I can't! Corp, I can't." Macleish will refuse to kill the prisoner because his brother is in the same position as the Japanese soldier and he feels that if he agrees to the killing, then it will be like condemning his brother. Macleish wants to believe in the rules of war: "There's such a thing as the Geneva Convention!" Whitaker wont want to kill the prisoner because he is nervous just being in the same room as him, so he wouldn't have the courage to kill him. Smith won't kill the prisoner because he is just the same person as the captive, but only in a different uniform. The prisoner, like Smith, has a wife and two children. Bamforth has shown the whole patrol the hostage's pictures: "Ã¢ÂÂ¦It's a picture of a Nippo bintÃ¢ÂÂ¦Nippo snappers, Sarge.Two Jap kidsÃ¢ÂÂ¦" I think Smith is the least likely to kill the prisoner because he is the person who is most like him.
However, I was completely wrong and my expectations of all of them were confounded, as Willis Hall shows in the last scene of the play. They all agree to the killing. Evans, like Smith agrees to the killing of the Japanese soldier because he realises that it is either him or the prisoner. Smith says: "Ã¢ÂÂ¦Its him or us." Macleish does not actually agree to the killing of the prisoner, he just does nothing. The stage directions say: "(Macleish continues to stare out of the windowÃ¢ÂÂ¦Macleish does not move.)" He is allowing it to happen but he does not want to be part of it, so he stares out of the window and ignores Bamforth. He feels that if he does not contribute to it then the Japanese army will have no reason to kill his brother. I didn't expect Whitaker to want to kill the prisoner and he didn't object to the idea. All Whitaker did was make other excuses to get out of it: "We've got to get back, Bammo." He doesn't want to agree to the killing of the prisoner like Macleish, and so he makes up other excuses. He is very weak and cowardly.
All the men are willing to sacrifice the prisoner for their own survival. This confounds my expectations because I thought that they would be less likely to kill the prisoner the more they got to know him and find out that he is not sub-human. But they didn't. Mitchem says to Bamforth: "Ã¢ÂÂ¦The circumstances are altered. The situations changed. I can't take him along." Mitchem wants to get rid of the prisoner because they are in a situation where it's either the British patrol or the Japanese soldier and they all want to kill the Japanese prisoner instead of trying to take him along.
Ironically of all the members of the patrol I expected Bamforth to be the ruthless person who would kill without a thought. In this scene Bamforth shows himself to be a Christ-like figure, defending the prisoner against the others even at the expense of his own life. I was sure that Whitaker wouldn't touch the prisoner because he was scared of him. The stage directions say, "(Whitaker is still afraid to move.)" Bamforth is fighting his own side to defend the prisoner's life. The attitude Bamforth adopts is unexpected because at the start of the play Bamforth is only out for himself.
"Ã¢ÂÂ¦I'd be off like a whipper. You'll not see my tail for dust." In scene one Bamforth doesn't even consider letting the prisoner live but in Act Two, things change because Bamforth sees that the prisoner is not sub-human and tries to protect him. The stage directions say: "(Positioning himself between the prisoner and Johnstone)" He blocks Johnstone and I think he is saying inside himself if you want to kill the prisoner, you are going to have to come through me.
Ironically it is Whitaker who killed the prisoner. He is timid and frightened of his own shadow. He tries to be seen as a hero in the war. He is the one who does the killing but he was in a panic and the gun went off. Ironically, he wanted to be a hero. Now he is but his actions have condemned the rest of the men in the patrol. My expectations of all the ordinary men were confounded. Mitchem says: "It's a war. It's something in a uniform and it's a different shade to mine." He is stereotyping the enemy to just a "thing" in a uniform, not a human being. To them the word "enemy" means a dangerous, violent, ugly creature that is not human. Bamforth shows that the enemy is a man exactly like Smith. He has a wife and children and is scared and vulnerable. Stereotypes are dangerous and lead us to deny the humanity of others. When Johnstone says: "It's a bloody nip." He is saying that the soldier isn't a human by using the word "it". Bamforth sees him as a human, just like them and says: "He's a man!" Willis Hall used stereotyping and irony to give us his message. He wants us to think about war and how it brutalises men and turns them into machines with no humanity.