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The article titled “Combat Friends: The Man of Easy Company” was moving, but not as much because of the writing as because of the subject matter itself. However, even though it wasn’t a favorite of mine, I do think that there are still things that can be learned from the article.  The first is how to write simply for a general audience.  Ambrose is definitely an easy read, and the stories about his combat brothers were page-turners. I wanted to know what happened to these men that formed such unexpected friendships with one another after the war.

            It was challenging for me to get into the article in the beginning because Ambrose automatically put up a barrier for me.  He started the article with, “There is a form of friendship that I’ve never experienced, though I have spent a lot of time wondering about it and talking and writing about it.” Starting off the article with these words characterizes him as an outsider to the world of combat.  A couple of sentences later, he states, “Today I know how utterly false that is. It [football] is not like combat. Nothing is. Combat requires all the nerves, all the physical attributes, and every bit of training. It is only in combat, nowhere else, where time is measured in other ways than by clocks or calendars.”  Because of his opening statement, I don’t trust his knowledge of combat in this following section.  Even though it is implied that he talked to many men who were in combat, such a strong statement comes off as overwhelming.

Another issue that I had with this article was that it seemed a little redundant.  With every new person that was introduced, Ambrose explained how they were the best at what they did and different from everyone else, but the friendship they developed with these men with whom they served disregarded these differences.  Instead of making each individual person stand out, this generalization made them all blend together.  Also, it is repeated in various forms that the group of men became like a family, and that despite their geographical distance they managed to stay in touch. This is a point that really only needs to be made once.

Unlike the first article, “Faithful Friends: Lewis and Clark” was very enjoyable.  The story was even more riveting, focusing on two famous historical people that every American is familiar with.  Ambrose’s detailed description of the adoration that these men had for one another would fit under the modern term “bromance.” This was also an easy read, but what made it successful was the incorporation of history into the story of their friendship. While being historically correct, Ambrose jazzes up the familiar story adding letters written between the two men and occasional spicy comments.  One of my favorites happened when Lewis broke the news to Clark about their unequal rank, and suggested that that stay a secret between the two of them.  Ambrose writes, “This was satisfactory to his friend Clark who like most Virginia gentleman was rank-conscious.”  Comments like those added a little humor and reliability to the story.

The opening of the article titled “Faithful Friends: Lewis and Clark” was much stronger than the opening of the previous article.  Ambrose praised Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on the uniqueness of their friendship, pointing out the incomparable experiences that the two of them shared together.  The relation to the author’s friendship with Nick worked well in this, making Ambrose relatable, and therefore trustworthy to the reader.

There were a couple of sections, however, that bothered me. Ambrose has a habit of overpraisal, and this can come off as cheesy at times.  Towards the beginning, he states “But what I envy Lewis and Clark for the most is not the experiences I can never have, but their friendship with each other, an experience we can all of us hope to have in our own way in our own time.”  I feel like that statement is a little extreme, and not quite believable.  I personally envy their lifestyle more than their friendship, seeing as most people have a best friend in life, but no one will ever be able to experience what they experienced.

The exaggeration seems present again when Ambrose is talking about the complete lack of fighting between Lewis and Clark on their expedition.  I find it a little hard to believe that they didn’t fight over anything serious for the whole voyage, however he does successfully put emphasis on how well their friendship worked together.  Even though it isn’t completely believable, there has to be some validity in his claim since it was never reported that they got into a serious fight.  I did like how Ambrose displayed their professional relationship as being positive and important to their friendship.  In my experience, that can be one of the biggest issues with friendship, separating professional life from friendly banter.  It helps me believe the friendship as a reader.

Fighting habits aside, Ambrose still paints the two men in a flawless light, which is another thing I’m not quick to believe. In a section that discusses the relationship with all of the men on board he says, “No matter how cold they were, how exhausted, how dangerous their situation, how miserable their existence, or how hungry and worried and frightened, they never spoke sharply to one another.” This is then repeated later in the article towards the end. The redundancy is not beneficial to proving his point, and the light that he paints them in is borderline saintly.  He does redeem himself slightly with the destruction of Lewis, showing that the friendship is powerful, but not without flaws.

The end of the article simultaneously annoys me and gains my approval.  The story lost some of its strength when Ambrose decided to give it a general moral. “What they had done, first of all, was to demonstrate that there is nothing that men cannot do if they get themselves together and act as a team.” It makes the story lose some of its meaning, and it’s simply cheesy.  He then continues by defining what friends do and do not do, and that lathered on the cheddar.  The redeeming quality in the ending was the reminder of the flaws of their friendship, and I liked leaving on a note of how humanity is a part of friendship.

 

 

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