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The Importance of Chapter 15

Library of Congress

Hello, my name is Luke Hamilton, I am a junior at Colby High School, and I will be talking about Michael Morpurgo’s book, War Horse.

In this story, war is narrated by a staunch and wholehearted horse named Joey. Like Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, themes like death, duty, companionship, and war are outlined throughout. But in stark contrast to Hemingway’s downplayed and existential storytelling, War Horse gives a more emotional and positive perspective. Morpurgo wrote this way to show his readers the humanity and hope that can exist in war.

    In Chapter 16, Morpurgo acclimates all this optimism and all his interesting perspectives to make a definitive chapter. As it goes, Joey, the horse, finds himself stuck in no-mans-land - a cratered, barb-wired, and desolate landscape. The German and English sides find Joey compelling and raise an excitement and become determined to attract him to their trenches. Soon, a German soldier calls a brief truce and makes his way to the horse, and an English soldier follows suit. As the voices of two armies, the English-speaking German and the English soldier discuss and decide to flip a coin for the horse. When the English soldier wins, the two men act civilly and amiably. As one may already tell, this exchange is very significant and symbolic, especially for two enemy soldiers caught in a bitter war. Through the event, they forgot their differences, sorted out an issue, and left as friends. It's a chapter worthy of discussion, and probably the most figuratively rich.

    So, outlining a few interesting items, take the settling of a feud between the two soldiers. They had been at each other for months, likely years, having killed the others’ comrades. But the two came out and acted like civilized people, as anyone swooped up in that war. They saw past the badge, so to speak, and found companionship through a dispute over a horse. It’s important to note, also, that this issue about who got Joey was solved with a simple coin toss. Here, the author asserts that people can handle themselves, no matter the situation. He, also, suggests that the war-makers - a.k.a. Kaisers, Kings, and/or aristocrats - do not always speak for their people. Anyway, they handled themselves because of their respect for fellow man.

Moving on, Joey served as a symbol of hope and admiration to many soldiers. Although the men were deep in the grime and grit of war, they came out sane when Joey appeared. If Morpurgo's elbow wasn’t pointy enough, this is the author hinting that hope and something to believe in can bring out the best in people. In other chapters, it can be seen that Joey serves as eyes into the human elements of war. He saw both German and British sides and met every day, friendly people. Altogether, these ideas by Michael Morpurgo apply especially today: that despite humanity's difference, we’re all brothers and sisters in arms. And, yes, it's easy to sit here and say ‘war is bad,’ but it’s important to realize the human element of war.

And that’s one of the most important things you can take from this book.  It’s what I’ve taken from this. So, to end, here’s a takeaway from when the Brit soldier said to the German, “If they would let you and me have an hour or two out here together, we could sort this whole wretched mess. There would be no more weeping widows and crying children in my valley and no more in yours.”