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A review of T.H. White’s book The Once and Future King

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Jacob F.
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book reviews
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  1. Introduction
  2. The first portion of The Once and Future King
  3. Wart's transformation by Merlin
  4. The second educational adventure
  5. Wart's series of educational forays
  6. Hitler as the leader of the most prominent fascist party
  7. The fourth transformation
  8. Conclusion

An epic historical fantasy with a point that transcends the genre, T.H. White's classic four-part novel is a time telescope with a mirror at the end in place of a lens. As with most classical literature, White's tale contains a higher intention hidden beneath the folds of his satirical prose, and while this hidden agenda may have been intended to depict situations from White's own time period, they can easily be adapted to circumstances of our own time. Throughout the novel, White uses several different tactics to get his point across. For instance, White consistently uses anachronism, which is defined by Merriam-Webster Online as: ?a person or a thing that is chronologically out of place; especially: one from a former age that is incongruous in the present,? to communicate to the reader a deeper meaning within the story. Also, by using themes of religion and education throughout the story, White reshapes Thomas Mallory's classic Le Morte d'Arthur into an allegory for White's own anti-war politics.

[...] He also plants in the reader's mind that he understands Mallory's true intention: Even if you have to read it twice, like something in a history lesson, it is a vital part of the tragedy of King Arthur. It is why Sir Thomas Malory called his very long book the Death of Arthur. Although nine tenths of the story seems to be about knights jousting and quests for the holy grail and things of that sort, the narrative is a whole, and it deals with the reasons why the young man came to grief at the end. [...]


[...] In the case of the individual, we seek religion when all else fails; however, just as in his life and the story religion may work for a time, but only as a temporary stopgap as we search for true solutions to our problems. Politically speaking, because White wrote during a time when the separation of church and state was not paramount, he did not see religious motivations being detrimental to the state; he did not, however, see any lasting solution in them either. [...]


[...] Since White wrote the story of The Once and Future King during the Second World War, many of his negative analogies can be seen as references to Hitler; however, given the timeless nature of the novel, these same analogies can be applied to more modern administrations like the George W. Bush presidency. In this passage, the similarities between the king fish and the two are obvious. In the same way that the fish answered to nothing because of its strength, Hitler disregarded the League of Nations during his conquest of Austria and Czechoslovakia, and Bush went ahead with his war on Iraq despite disapproval from the United Nations. [...]

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