An Image of Heroic Triumph Essay

This essay has a total of 1437 words and 6 pages.

An Image of Heroic Triumph


In Tom Brokaw's book, The Greatest Generation, the author portrays ordinary people of a
certain generation as having qualities of greatness and heroism. He tells stories of
average people that lived inspiring lives through many hardships, and declares today's
society as the beneficiary of their challenging work and commitment. Brokaw's generous and
proficient use of imagery helps to persuade the reader to believe that the people of "the
greatest generation" are, indeed, heroic. He defines the strength and resilience of "the
greatest generation" by what they were able to confront and overcome.

"…when the nation was balanced precariously between the darkness of the Great Depression
on one side and the storms of war in Europe and the Pacific on the other…..Once again
the American people understood the magnitude of the challenge, the importance of an
unparallel national commitment, and, most of all, the certainty that only one resolution
was acceptable."(p3) This quote is from the opening paragraph of the chapter in Brokaw's
book, "The Time of their Lives." These ordinary people surmounted times of great
destitution while courageously facing the epoch of the Great depression. They comprehended
the necessity for commitment in order to preserve their independence. Brokaw uses imagery
including "the Darkness of the Great depression" to reveal to the reader the severity of
their situation. He depicts the Great Depression not just as a time of hardships, but as
an era when thousands of men and women starved to death, parents could not provide for
themselves or their families and unemployment was so high that a days work would yield, at
most, a loaf of stale bread to feed an entire family. Although he does not say these
things directly, his use of imagery causes the reader to have these thoughts and to see
these images.

"…they were fighting, often hand to hand, in the most primitive conditions possible,
across the bloodied landscape of France, Belgium, Italy, Austria. They fought their way up
a necklace of South Pacific islands few had ever heard of before and made them a fixed
part of American history...and they went to sea on hostile waters far removed from the
shores of their homeland."(pXIX) This quote from the introductory chapter of Brokaw's
book, "Generations," describes what the heroes of "the greatest generation" had to face.
Brokaw's use of imagery here provides, in words, a vivid portrait of the violent ocean
that the American soldiers had to cross in order to enter this remote land already
bloodied by their neighbors and foes, to fight for their very way of life. They traveled
thousands of miles over the harsh seas to enter what was, to them, the unknown.

"What those unsuspecting infants could not have realized, of course, was that these were
temporary conditions, a false spring to life that would be buffeted by winds of change
dangerous and unpredictable, so fierce that they threatened not just America but the very
future of the planet."(p4) Brokaw's use of imagery here helps the reader understand the
drastic nature of the change that occurred in the world between the 1920s and 1940s. He is
stating that the youth of our nation was living in a safe-harbor for only a short period
of time, almost as if under false pretenses, and that this promising future of America
veered radically off a path as they had to face the unprecedented crash of the stock
market, with damage so great that over a thousand banks would close, millions of people
would become unemployed and homeless, and an overwhelming sense of economic calamity would
sweep the feet out from under their fragile vision of security. Brokaw described this in
the chapter titled "The Time of their Lives," as a time when "A mass of homeless and
unemployed drifted across the American landscape." (p7) This gives the reader an image of
millions of people hopelessly wandering the country in search for work to survive. The
author's thesis of heroism is supported by fact that these ordinary men and women,
devastated by economic disaster, were able to overcome these challenges and prepare for
one more war for their independence.

One of Tom Brokaw's stories of heroism is based on a great woman, Martha Settle Putney. It
is a story of how a black woman, defying all the barriers of racial prejudice and
segregation, persevered to become military personnel. She endured many incidents where
most peoples' pride and motivation would have been damaged to the point that they would
have lost faith in their own ability to succeed. Instead, she committed herself even more
so in order to prove, to herself and others, that blacks were as capable as whites, and
that they deserved equal opportunities. "Martha remembers to this day the anger she felt
when a group of German officers, who were POW's at a garrison in the Des Moines area, were
invited into the Des Moines officers' club while the blacks were barred. She also
remembers that there was nothing she could do about it."(p187) This quote not only gives a
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