In the story the author focuses on the inhuman
behavior. The aim of the story is to show the spirit of Prussian militarism and
the social and ethnic influence upon it. Lawrence hyperbolizes two main
characters: the Prussian officer and an ordinary soldier in order to show the
genuine difference of their nature.
The aim of the author is to transfer a certain idea to
the readers’ minds. Intensifying the action and presenting two main characters
as two opposed figures, the author manages to create the atmosphere that was
typical of Prussian militarism. The Prussian officer is a powerful man and the
law is on his side, people in the army have to obey him. One of them is a poor
guy who is turned to the wrong way by the officer. The psychological pressure
drives him crazy and the only way out that he can see is to kill the officer.
It does not bring him any relief though and the tragic end waits for me as
Speaking about the main characters, firstly I would
like to focus I would like to focus on one of the central figures: the orderly.
The author represents him as a poor guy from a village. At the very beginning
of the story the orderly admires the Prussian officer: he likes him as a person
and he respects him as a master. But the abuse he has to suffer from, changes
his personality to a great extend. If at the beginning he fulfills every order
unquestioningly, like a slave, then later we notice that his personal attitude
does not allow him to clear the hurdle that arose due to the officer’s actions.
He can’t stand it anymore and the understanding that there is no way out makes
him kill the officer but that does not bring any relief to him and his madness
led him to the death as well.
As for the Prussian officer, he is very aggressive and
that aggression brings him satisfaction. He spends his time torturing his
orderly and it is clear that the author does not respect this character at all.
I suppose that the author mainly takes the side of the orderly. He probably
does not pity him but he tries to transfer the feelings this character has
towards the officer, intensifying the bad image of the last one.
"The Prussian Officer" - the Story of the Intensity of Feeling
The story "The Prussian Officer” is not rich in eventsand feelings, thoughts
being in the focus of narration. The author describes a man suppressing his
feelings, transforming passion into aggression and the consequences of this
tension. The narrative opens with the description of the relationship between
the main characters - the officer and his orderly – that are full of
uncontrolled fury and aggression. The tension and passion the officer feels
towards his servant are of sexual nature, though he can hardly admit it. Hiding
his feelings, the officer fights against himself and that results in his wild
frenzy. Violence leads to hatred and the very hatred arises in young servant's
soul. He is in delirium, he can't control himself, he believes that the only way
to get rid of the officer's influence in to get rid of this man. For good.
The officer is undoubtedly the main character of the narration. From the
very beginning we understand that he is the man of power – he has it and he
enjoys it. He's strong-willed, harsh and even cruel. Even his appearance
reflects his inner self: "Perhaps the man was
the more handsome for the deep lines in his face, the irritable tension of his
brow, which gave him the look of a man who fights with life. His fair eyebrows
stood bushy over light blue eyes that were always flashing with cold fire.”
Being such a strong man he is unable to control his own emotions, he is a
victim of his passion and desires.
The Prussian Officer feels threatened by this
culturally and socially unacceptable otherness, by forces which leave his
self-perception and his social considerations completely out of account. The
implications are therefore wider than homosexualism. They are social and they
carry out a potentially new attitude to life in general. E. W. Tedlock, the
investigator of Lawrence’s
works, the author of the book "D. H. Lawrence: Artist and Rebel”, calls the
very attitude the "vitalistic challenge”. It means that the officer wants his
life to be full. He wants his potential to be revealed. But he simply can’t.
And that is the problem for him. His life (as well as feelings) is always
suppressed by his conscious desire to fit into the society, to be like others.
And that is a great challenge for him.
Denying his inner self he tries to satisfy his needs
substituting passion by aggression, but it is not the way out. It seems that
nothing can ease his pain. Still there's one thing that makes him quite
satisfied – his power: "It pleased him. The command pleased him. And he was
feeling proud”. He is looking at his soldiers standing in the field and the
feeling that they obey him makes him confident. He can't control his own self,
but instead he can control other people's lives.
Therefore to interpret the relationship of the officer
to his orderly strictly in psychoanalytical terms as a manifestation of
homosexuality is as reductive as to argue that the story is merely of Prussian
Actually we may to some extent conclude that the main
characters are juxtaposed to each other. Just pay attention to the following
idea: when describing the orderly Lawrence
uses the word combination "a warm flame”. But the officer’s "light blue eyes…
were always flashing with cold fire”. So, using the lexical units with
antonymic semes Lawrence
creates certain ground for the conflict to arise. Moreover, antonyms always
hint at the tension rising and the conflict approaching.
So, it is quite obvious that Lawrence is a master of description. And not
only the description of events and nature, but of certain state of mind we
usually call "delirium”. After the murder the orderly dives into the very depth
of this feeling. The first thought that comes to his mind is that nothing will
be the same again. "Here his own life also ended”, " And he no longer
belonged to it — he sat there, beyond, like a man outside in the dark. He had
gone out from everyday life into the unknown, and he could not, he even did not
want to go back”. In his descriptions the author uses a great deal of
repetitions. In one short passage such words as "dead”, "struggle”, "believe”,
"heart beat heavily”, "something was knocking” are repeated for several times
in order to create the very state of delirium, oblivion and despair.
This new situation disintegrates and annihilates the
orderly as a human being to the point of being "a gap”, "a shadow”, "empty
shell”. His habitual, natural self is suspended, as his integrity is violated.
Therefore, the tension culminates and there is a kind of mystical connection
between the servant and the officer which is the outcome of the intensity of
feeling. ”The orderly felt he was
connected with that figure moving so suddenly on horseback: he followed it like
a shadow, mute and inevitable and damned by it”.
(by Asya & Rina)
The orderly. Why he?
The story is about the Captain and his orderly. Having wasted his youth with gambling, the captain has only his military career, and though he has a lot of women throughout his life, he remains single. And he revenges for his inveterate life upon the orderly, the young man, who is full of life and cleanness. As far as I understand the captain envies his orderly, moreover the captain feels sexual attraction to this young man.
His young orderly is involved in a relationship with a young woman, and the captain, feeling sexual tension with regards to the young man, prevents the orderly from engaging in the relationship by taking up his evenings. These evenings lead to the captain abusing his orderly and leaving large, painful bruises on his thighs, making it hard for the orderly to walk. While isolated in a forest during manoeuvres, the orderly takes out murderous revenge on the captain, but finds himself in a daze seemingly due both to the pain of the bruises and thirst. The orderly eventually collapses and dies in the hospital shortly thereafter. The corpses of the two men lay side by side.
The orderly was a youth of about twenty-two, of medium height, and well built. He had strong, heavy limbs, was swarthy, with a soft, black, young moustache. The orderly is described as a usually young man, not full of intelligence, but clean and honest by the heart. The author tells about orderly in a very mild and gentle way.
There was something altogether warm and young about him. . He acted straight from instinct. When the captain begins his humiliations, the orderly controls himself and here we see how restrained he is, and how much it costs.
"The orderly shut himself off, as it were out of earshot, and waited, with sullen, flushed face, for the end of the noise”.
"Suddenly the smile lit like a flame on the officer's face, and a kick came heavily against the orderly's thigh. The youth moved a pace sideways. His face went dead, with two black, staring eyes”.
The orderly is described as a hero. The author sympathized with him and I also cannot regard him as a murderer. But Lawrence kills him at the end of the story that shows that every sin should be paid.
Inner conflict of the Prussian officer
The narrative opens
with the description of the Prussian officer. The author shows us the Prussian
officer as a typical representative of his time. It’s said that he is a Prussian aristocrat, haughty and overbearing, so he possesses all threats of character usual for
this social class.
Then we learn about the
relationships between the officer and his orderly. The Prussian officer is imperious and selfish. But his is an officer so he
is disciplined.Officer’s honor is also familiar to him.To his orderly the master was at first cold and just
and indifferent. But then things changed.
It is said that there
was something so free and self-contained about the orderly, and something in the young fellow’s movement that made the officer
aware of him. So we see that the officer now has some warm feelings to his
The Prussian officer faces a kind of inner conflict. He
starts feeling passion to his orderly. On the one hand that’s typical for the
army of those times and even for nowadays army.But on the other hand,
this contradicts his inner manhood.Besides this we know that the officer is very jealous and overbearing. All these
facts influence the behaviour of the officer.So he begins torturing
and humiliating his servant. He becomes cruel.His behaviour is based
on his lust.
This way of abuse is
the only possible way for him to express his feelings and appetency.And the orderly understands this. The Prussian officer falls prisoner. And his jail is
his own lust and uncontrolled passion. The conflict leads to a
terrible murder. The orderly kills his master.And just in some hours
he himself dies. And at the end of the story we see the body of the Prussian
officer lying near the body of his servant.
Fiction is not photography - that what the author is looking for is
some phase of human behaviour to which the author may react strongly and which
he can use in a short piece of writing. A typical short story is usually
centred around one (two) main character(s) and presents only some basic
characteristic features (character traits), often interrelated. "The Prussian
Officer”, as you’ve seen, is centred around harsh relationships between an
officer and his orderly. The attitude of the office is violent and harsh, and
in this story the author investigates the state of a humiliated mind and what
consequences it can lead to. Psychological suppression and physical abuse are
one of the themes of the story. All in all, the plot focuses on human’s
behavior in certain non-conventional conditions.
At the beginning the reader attention is focused on the relations of
an officer and his orderly. We see how violent he behaves and how vigorously he
humiliates the orderly. The tension between two grows, and finally the officer
goes from qwords to actions – he beats the orderly when he realizes that his
subordinate has a girl. Here the reader is hinted at the fact that the officer
has some homosexual interest in his orderly. The hatred of the orderly grows
and finally when both are alone in the wood, the orderly strangles the captain
and dies himself soon. This is the end of tragedy brought about by violence and
The orderly spends his days and nights being abused by his captain.
He’s counting days until the end of his service. He stands all offences and
unbearable actions of the officer. The orderly tests his will to resist the
officer silently. He obeys his orders however humiliating they are. He can’t
even revolt after having been beaten by the officer. Perhaps he is trying not to bear the officer
in order not to induce more rage of the latter.
Trying to endure the captain, he uses all his patience not to blow up.
But the longest day has an end, so finally he bursts out and loses
consciousness killing the officer. He was trying to follow the behavior pattern
of the subordinate in front of his officer. Certainly he failed to do it by
strangling the captain. What was more
disgusting for him is the officer’s sexual intentions towards the orderly. Most
likely is that the orderly understood that such behavior is a way of expressing
the officer’s lust. The tragic end is also waiting for the orderly – he dies as
Lawrence focuses only on two characters showing his attitudes
towards both of men. It’s obvious that the author stands for the orderly and
opposes the captain. Throughout the
story he shows how harassing the actions of the captain are and how abused the
orderly is. He feels a kind of compassion for the orderly, and he is certainly
interested in the justice to be established. This is how, slowly, step by step
he leads the orderly to the murder of his captain. He includes the element of homosexualism
in order to show the captain from the most disgusting side. His intentions are
clear – violence of the captain is the
main reason why the author and his readers as well disapprove of this character.
The Prussian Officer tells us about the Captain and
his orderly. Having wasted his life with gambling, the captain has been left
with only his military career. After many events he becomes alone. Another
character here is his young orderly. He has relationships with a young woman,
and the captain disallows him to meet with her. Sometimes the captain can't control himself and sometimes he beats up his orderly. All these actions lead
to the murder. The orderly eventually collapses and dies in the hospital shortly
after captain's death. We can say that in the story Prussian Officer there are
two main characters. This story tells us about the captain and his young
orderly. It is obvious that they are completely different. The officer is a
haughty, self-disciplined aristocrat, frustrated both in love and in his
career. After many events he becomes alone especially inwardly. He had cut
himself off from the world. He has no real desire or passion for the world
around him, or even for life. He wishes to only live inside of himself with his
orderly. The young orderly is a very patient, hard-working, responsible person.
He has relationships with a young woman, and it is evidence they love each
other. At the beginning of the story he respects his officer.But soon the orderly begins to feel an unaccustomed
anger to the captain. Sometimes the captain can't control himself and sometimes
he beats up his orderly. At the end of the story all these actions lead to the
murder. Lawrence suggests his own attitude toward the characters and the
situation from the start, and supports it throughout the whole of the story.
The fact that the captain is described as cold and the orderly is "like a warm
flame” is characteristic enough. When the captain is bulling the orderly the
author is clearly on the latter's side. We know that Prussian Officer is characterized
by a great number of descriptions in it. The author uses many adjectives to
describe them not only positive but also negative.
"The Prussian Officer”, as you’ve seen, is centered around the relationships between an aristocratic officer of the Prussian army and his orderly. These two characters are antagonists, which is also typical of short stories. The author concentrates his narration on the confrontation of the two men and on the psychological aspect as well – descriptions of moral tortures and sufferings make the story strong and impressive in spite of its relatively small size. Lawrence wrote a wide variety of short stories. His story "The Prussian Officer” is a psychological study of the hatred of the officer for his young orderly, which breeds an answering hatred in the lad, resulting in his murdering the officer with his bare hands in the wood.This was not a sudden flash of hatred and savageness. The orderly was suppressed and dispirited, humiliated and molested. Throughout the story he faces permanent oppression and beating. The officer feels a kind of perverted sadistic pleasure torturing and humbling the orderly, because he has sexual attraction towards him and is also jealous, because the orderly is in love with a young woman. As a result all these humiliation lead to a tragic end – the orderly strangles the officer and dies of thirst and pain.
I would like to speak in more details about the officer. It goes without saying that he’s mentally unstable and even sick but every kind of behavior often has its own ground. The officer has never had true and sincere relationships with a woman. That’s why he is alone and the only thing that strokes his ego is his military career. Although he is aristocratic and arrogant in the back of his mind he is more likely not proud of himself. Moreover, nothing can entirely substitute love and family for a human being. This life misfortune causes a kind of disturbance of the officer’s mind – he becomes aggressive, malicious and abnormally sadistic. His sexual orientation is also on the hook – he feels sympathy toward the orderly, but at the same time beats and humiliates him. He spends his evenings torturing the poor soldier and glorying in his own power and cruelty. The main reason for such behavior of the officer is his dissatisfaction with life, his loneliness and meaninglessness. It is small wonder that these circumstances finally lead him to a sorrowful end. Lawrence suggests his own attitude toward the characters and the situation from the start, and supports it throughout the whole of the story. The fact that the captain is described as cold and the orderly is "like a warm flame” is characteristic enough. When the captain is bulling the orderly the author is clearly on the latter’s side.
To my mind the officer is the author’s collective image of everything evil and inhuman that can exist not only in the war and in the army, but in the mind of human being in general. The orderly is on the other hand the author ideal – he’s an example of patience and bearing, his is a man of a kind heart and a clean conscience but at the same time his power is like a sleeping bear. Arousing this inner monster from his sleep, the officer invites death for both of the protagonists. But while the officers dying is deserved and justified in the eyes of the author, the death of the orderly is a bitter loss, a sacrifice which was offered up in order to stop the endless humiliating treatment and madness. The orderly is a hero in this story and it unfortunately happens that real heroes sometimes end up in a bad way.
"The Prussian Officer” – a tragedy of bodies and souls
"The Prussian Officer” is centered on hidden subconscious desires often
suppressed and resulting in strong reactions to the outer world. The story was
not designed to be a snapshot of real state of events but a thorough
contemplation and investigation of human nature and affections. The author puts
a strong emphasis on the interrelations of the main characters – an officer and
his orderly which led to a tragedy both of bodies and souls.
The story provides a sufficient description of the
looks of the young soldier. "… There was something altogether warm and young
about him. He had firmly marked eyebrows over dark, expressionless eyes, that
seemed never to have thought, only to have received life direct through his
senses, and acted straight from instinct.”
At first he was indifferent and cold to his master and got used to
fulfilling all his orders properly. He had his evenings free and he would go to
a date with his beloved – an indigenous girl with whom he talked less but felt
a strong affection. The way he behaved irritated the officer. The soldier tried
to ignore the visible hatred of the Captain and suppressed the respondent
aggression. He started to fear the man, his angry look and humiliating words. When
he was beaten, he felt an overwhelming loathing towards the officer but managed
to stay reserved. Probably he was not aware of the reason for his master’s
aggravation. The soldier was very emotional over the incident and couldn’t
sleep the whole night. He set up his mind to endure the route march though his
legs hurt him bitterly. After all he could not mortify his abomination toward
the Captain and gave free rein of his anger strangling him and watching him
Some places in the narration give the reader a basis
to look for deeper implications. "Gradually the officer had become aware of his
servant’s young, vigorous, unconscious presence about him. He could not get
away from the sense of the youth’s person, while he was in attendance. It was
like a warm flame upon the older man’s tense, rigid body, that had become
almost unliving, fixed”. The implication touches upon two points: first of all,
this indicates the repressed physical affection of the officer. This feeling
was born unexpectedly but "gradually” and manifested itself through the
haunting thoughts called ‘presence’, ‘sense’, ‘flame in the body’. Second, the
lines hint at the Captain’s dissatisfaction with his life and understanding of
his age: the tense, rigid, fixed, unliving, and
perhaps, unloving body represents the life fading away without any warning.