The Machine Gunners Essay
During his lifetime, Robert Westall has published over thirty books. His first book, The Machine Gunners won the Carnegie Medal in 1975. The author grew up during the Second World War also the book’s setting so his novel, “The Machine Gunners” echoes the author’s experiences and feelings of the war but the book’s plot and location are fictional. The book and plot are based around the finding of a spoil of war, crashed among a German’s plane ruin, a boy named Chas discovers a machine gun.
The book follows Chas and his friends as they cleverly outwit their families and the law. Their maturity in their decisions and a sense of realism grips the reader.The book’s plot outlines Chas’s schemes which start when he finds a shot down German plane complete with a working machine gun. Chas’s idea of turning this against the Germans leads him to steal the gun and build a fortress with it.
Then come the clever plans to gain allies and a location for their haven. Whilst this, they (Chas and his friends) also outwit the police who are suspicious of their activities. The plot twists as a German survivor is found, clues linking them to the machine gun are found and a possible invasion is imminent.The author’s skill in the description of action scenes is particularly attractive.
The way he cleverly uses metaphors casts a effective image inside the readers’ mind, so the reader can relate to the scene in the same way as the author imagined it. The reader finds himself enrolled in the book due to the powerful, rich and aggressive nature of the settings. Descriptions of even the air raids such as when the bombs start falling, “thunder boots” describing the relentless power and striking of the bombs conveys a truly dark scene. The readers’ feelings also change as the writer moves from the striking of the bombs to Chas’ feelings of being like “Two small flies” giving a sensation of vulnerability and “across a white tablecloth” gives a scale of how visible they are among the battle.
The tension that builds up among the frightening scenes and a possible approaching death is cleverly forgotten as the author inserts humorous scenes that lightens the mood but doesn’t diminish its seriousness.The story’s central character, Chas McGill is not a saint among heroes. He is more of a flawed character despite being well intentioned, makes ill-natured decisions that lead to others getting hurt. When it comes to deceitful tricks he shows a intelligence beyond the average boy even in the most pressured situations, the reader cannot deny the impressive and momentary decisions he makes.
He shows that he has a instinct for lying as lies come to his slippery tongue as fast as the truth. Depending on his subject such as the policeman, Fatty Hardy, Chas appeals to the policeman’s weaknesses, knowing the trigger and how to manipulate it. Chas is not, however, cold-hearted, he does show remorse and guilt for his actions like the scene in which Chas lies to his father to get him to build a tripod for a “telescope” but it gets used for the machine gun.After lying, he feels guilty, “In his moment of triumph Chas felt a rat.
It was a much worse pain than parting with his beloved railway.” That was a example of one of Chas’ well thought plans. In total there are three ways in which Chas behaves, – well thought plans. quick-thinking and blind-thinking. A example of quick-thinking can be found be found when Chas is being repeatedly drowned by Boddser for information for the machine gun. Instead of giving in, he fakes unconsciousness and possible death which gives him a split-second advantage as Boddser panics, he seizes the opportunity to break free.
“And now McGill lay silent, motionless, breathing in a funny sort of way.” and later, “McGill was up and gone, running now like a small muddy rat.” This is an excellent example of how despite being under increased pressure, he was able to fool Boddser Brown.And the final example covering blind decisions that Chas makes portraying brutal and violent scenes. In the scene of recruiting Nicky into the gang, Chas is deliberating belligerent the bully, Boddser. He tries to embarrass Boddser into a fight.
But instead of a fair fight, Chas resorts to crude techniques, “He swung his fist wildly, a yard from Boddser’s face and opened his hand. Fine gravel sprayed into Boddser’s eyes.” But after blinding him, Chas does not stop there, he goes onto attack him, not with his fists but in a more brutal manner. “Calmly, full of murder, Chas picked up his gasmask case and swung it. It hit the side of Boddser’s head with a sound like a splitting pumpkin.
” After the brutal attempt, you would expect Chas to stop and use his fists “intelligence” but anger seems to have gripped and blinded him. “Chas swung at him again. The gasmask dented dramatically Boddser crashed into the corrugated iron fence. Chas his raised his tin a third time. All the hate of all the years, infant school, junior school boiled up in him.
“The scenes outlines the flaws among the central character, only his friends Cem and Clogger stop him and it takes a few minutes for the guilt to sink in. “Chas felt like a criminal.” Chas’s friends ranged from the weak and strong but they are all loyal to him and vice-versa. Clogger, the strongest of the gang, is extremely violent and has a aggressive nature when fighting.
This does not make him overall bad as he has his caring and compassionate attributes aswell. They are most directed at the gang’s weakest character, Nicky.After losing his father at a very early age, Nicky’s life is far from perfect. His mother is now a alcoholic and sleeps with guests who live in her house. His house has evidence of his mother’s embarrassing habits. This all changes when unfortunately a bomb lands on their house.
However by the sheerest of luck, Nicky survives. Nicky’s home is now the fortress. After losing his home, Chas declares the backyard is now the perfect place for their fortress. Reasons being no one goes there anymore. When the German soldier, Rudi, survives a aerial assault and Chas and his friends take him as a “prisoner” into their fortress. Then slowly a relationship beings to grow between Rudi and Nicky, a father and son one.
As though Nicky is compensating for the father he never had. The bond is put to the test as Rudi is in danger of being discovered and must leave. The only option being Nicky’s father’s dinghy. At first Nicky is reluctant to let this lost memory of his father to go. But then he decides that his father is his past and Rudi his present.
The build up to the “invasion” is caused by a number of events. Starting it off are the bells which start ringing. The bells are only meant to be rung when a invasion is at hand. This throws the whole town into panic. Each character acts in their own way.
The true colours of each are finally stripped away and left bare. Audery’s dad sees danger and tries to escape to a safe haven using the black market oil. It is finally revealed that Audery’s family have not been living like everyone else but instead receiving extra leisure’s that too illegally. As the car starts to drive, Audery recalls that she doesn’t want to be known as the coward who ran away at the first sign of danger.
She couldn’t face her friends, so she jumps out of the car and runs away.Chas is in his shelter when he hears the bells. He feels the adrenaline of a fight also the seduction of giving up and surrendering but as soon as this thought enters his mind, he dismisses it. He knows that Germans are ruthless and that they would kill all those he loved.
He decides to go down fighting. The gang meet up at the shelter and they spend the night there. The following day, Rudi is returning from his journey back to his homeland, his love for the children overwhelming that of his past fatherland. His patriotism is his past. The mood is like the after-math of a battle, everything is quiet.
Everything that led the children to believe that their was an invasion starts to fever their mind against the illusion. They seem to accept that fact that the Germans are coming so this makes them shoot at the polish troops believing them to be Germans. Thinking that Fatty Hardy, the policeman who is helping the polish troops is bad. There is no German invasion just polish troops travelling south. This fact hits Chas like hot iron.
Anger erupts out of him that all the preparation and all those nights thinking that a possible invasion were false.Suddenly Chas hates everyone, including their parents who are advancing on the fortress, causing him to shoot wildly, his anger clouding his mind yet again. Rudi, having returned then continues to advance on the fortress despite the children’s cries of warning In the heat of the moment as the parents and the polish troops are blocked by Rudi and his continuous advancement causes Clogger to fire the pistol. Their experience has told them that they are living in a world which children can be killed but have no right to fight back.
That enemies can also be misunderstandings. The children’s maturity has greatly increased. They are now more “battle-worn” and show maturity beyond their age. As the final scenes close in, the policeman takes Nicky away and calls his friends, “ruffians” Nicky’s reaction to this is “Get stuffed”. The reason Nicky reacted like this is because Chas and his friends were his first real friends, they looked after him and took care of him.
He could not stand them being called Ruffians.Robert Westall has showed a completely different view on how children were affected by the way. Despite the fiction, the story has lines of moral and truth stretched throughout a thoroughly enjoyable experience.