Eternity (novel)

From Here to Eternity (novel)

From Here to Eternity is a novel by James Jones, winner of the National Book Award for fiction in 1952. It is loosely based on Jones' experiences in the pre-World War II Hawaiian Division's 27th Infantry and the unit in which he served, Company E ("The Boxing Company"). Fellow company member Hal Gould said that while the novel was based on the company, including some depictions of actual persons, the characters are fictional and both the harsh conditions and described events are inventions. The 1953 film, 1979 minseries, and 1980 dramatic series were all adapted from the novel.

Plot introduction

Set in the summer and autumn of 1941 at the Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, the story follows several members of G Company, including Captain Dana “Dynamite” Holmes and First Sergeant Milt Warden, who begins an affair with Holmes's wife Karen. At the heart of the novel lays a struggle between former bugler Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt, an infantryman from Kentucky and a self-described "thirty-year man", and his superiors. Because he blinded a fellow soldier while boxing, the stubborn Prewitt refuses to box for his company’s outfit and then resists the "Treatment", a daily hazing ritual in which the non-commissioned officers of his company run him into the ground.

Like Jones's other World War II novels, the central characters are actually the same in all three books, though their names have been somewhat altered. From Here to Eternity features Warden and Prewitt, who become Welsh and Witt in The Thin Red Line and Mart Winch and Bobby Prell in Whistle. Similarly, Corporal Fife in The Thin Red Line reappears as Marion Landers in Whistle, as does the cook, Storm, who becomes Johnny "Mother" Strange.

Allusions/references to other works

The title was inspired by a line from Rudyard Kipling's poem "Gentleman Rankers"
Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree,
Damned from here to Eternity,
God ha' mercy on such as we,
Baa! Yah! Bah!

This poem also inspired the Whiffenpoof Song of Yale drinking fame, which mentions "gentlemen-songsters off on a spree, damned from here to eternity".

Literary response

Joan Didion has written many articles and essays praising From Here to Eternity, the most famous of which is "In the Islands", from The White Album.

The novel is included in Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Novels.

Film adaptation

In 1953, the novel was made into a film directed by Fred Zinnemann and produced by Buddy Adler.


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