AEW Mason’s Four Feathers

Following up on my post about the 1939 movie of The Four Feathers, a few thoughts on the original book. Four Feathers usually gets called an adventure novel or even a Boy’s Own tale, but it’s much more than that. Unlike most Edwardian adventures, Mason lavishes far more attention on the emotions of his characters than on their acts of derring-do. Mason is scathing towards the average British officer, calling Harry Feversham’s father and many of his cronies too dumb to be scared or to be a truly first-class officer. Feversham’s friend, Captain Durrance, begins the novel as a similarly narrow-minded man and only through his blindness evolves into a sensitive and perceptive man.

Mason was still alive and writing when the 1939 movie came out and was unhappy with the changes that were made to streamline the story, but I fell like it carries the message of Mason’s book quite well. If anything, it’s more sympathetic towards the military man than the original novel—critical mostly of self-deception and excess romanticism rather than the entire edifice of military discipline and it’s demand for subordination.

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