Culture and Entertainment

Attitudes Toward War Exemplified in Friendly Persuasion

Earlier this years, something in the Speaking with Joy Chesterton episode with Boze Herrington triggered me to think about the topics pacifism/just war/protection in Friendly Persuasion (I love this film, it is so sweet and homey and unexpectedly deep) with actors Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, and Anthony Perkins. It centers around a Quaker family in Southern Indiana during the Civil War. It is not mainly a war film, but the war is significant because of the call of volunteers and the ravaging Rebels coming over from Kentucky combined with the Quaker stance of pacifism. In thinking over this issue, I realized you could really see many different views towards war in the film.

  • Militant pacifism in the mother. She is self-righteous and unrelenting in her total pacifism and her judgement towards those who think differently, even in the face of her son trying to fit his conscience to a nation at odds with itself and his conscience. She doesn’t exactly relent, but I think she soften towards others some.

  • Gracious pacifism in the father. He is steadfast in her total pacifism but understands that others do not feel the same, like his farm laborer who is a former slave, and his son, who he understands is wrestling with various commands in the Bible and his conscience and the state of his nation.

  • Conflicted pacifism in Josh (I’m started to sometimes swing closer towards here, not here, but close; however, like with many things I’m a pendulum) (also, I looooove Josh). He knows and respects his parents beliefs and has made some of them his own, he seems to definitely prefer pacifism and peace, and he doesn’t want to kill or have hate in his heart, but he doesn’t think that watching innocent people get killed is right either.

  • Traditional honorable just war view held graciously by Guard (where I traditionally fall) (also, I looooove Guard). To Guard, it is simple the war is just, the Rebels are wrong, he sees it as his duty to fight and lead and does so honorably. He goes away to war, he leads the ragtaggle group of farmers protecting the farms against raiders, he swiftly calls to order the person who gives out the Rebel yell who is spoiling for war and who jeopardizes their position by the noise and scaring the other volunteers with the yell. He doesn’t shame the Quakers for thinking differently from him. I don’t feel he pushes Josh anymore than Josh’s father does, and certainly less than Josh’s mother.

  • Selfish Hypocrite in the Quaker Purdy who claims pacifism when it benefits him and revengeful violence when it benefits him.

  • Warmonger in the Rebs ravaging the country-side as well as the farmer volunteer who gave out Rebel yell.

All of this is portrayed so well. Any preaching is real preaching in the story, not preaching from the script to the film watchers. The thoughts and discussions and dilemmas feel real and intense. And this isn’t even the only theme of the story. Oh, this is SUCH a good movie.

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