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Spanish Prisoners of War (from Literature and Life)   By: (1837-1920)

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In William Dean Howells' Spanish Prisoners of War, readers are transported to a captivating and harrowing tale set during a tumultuous time in history. The novel delves deep into the lives of the characters, crafting a narrative that effortlessly intertwines the personal struggles and larger sociopolitical events occurring in Spain during the war.

One of the most notable aspects of Howells' writing is his masterful ability to create a vivid sense of atmosphere. The descriptions of the Spanish landscapes and the various settings within the story are incredibly detailed, allowing readers to immerse themselves fully into the world of the characters. From the rural villages to the chaotic battlefields, each scene feels authentic and evokes a strong emotional response.

The characters themselves are brilliantly developed, each with their own unique voice and motivations. The central focus of the novel revolves around a group of Spanish prisoners of war, and Howells does an exceptional job of conveying their experiences and inner turmoil. Despite their differing backgrounds and outlooks, the bond they form in the face of adversity is palpable and heartwarming.

Moreover, Howells subtly introduces thought-provoking themes throughout the novel. He explores the consequences of war, the complexities of loyalty, and the fragile nature of human relationships. The internal struggles faced by the characters mirror the external conflicts in Spain, offering a profound commentary on the devastating effects of war on both personal and national levels.

While the pacing of the novel may feel slower at times, it is a deliberate choice by Howells to allow readers to fully appreciate the depth and complexity of the story. The writing is elegant, with a lyrical quality that adds to the overall richness of the narrative.

Spanish Prisoners of War is a work that seamlessly blends historical events with deeply human stories. William Dean Howells' skillful storytelling and his ability to capture the essence of the characters and their world make this novel a compelling and rewarding read. It is a testament to the enduring power of literature to shed light on the darkest corners of our history and remind us of our shared humanity.

First Page:

LITERATURE AND LIFE Spanish Prisoners of War

by William Dean Howells


Certain summers ago our cruisers, the St. Louis and the Harvard, arrived at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with sixteen or seventeen hundred Spanish prisoners from Santiago de Cuba. They were partly soldiers of the land forces picked up by our troops in the fights before the city, but by far the greater part were sailors and marines from Cervera's ill fated fleet. I have not much stomach for war, but the poetry of the fact I have stated made a very potent appeal to me on my literary side, and I did not hold out against it longer than to let the St. Louis get away with Cervera to Annapolis, when only her less dignified captives remained with those of the Harvard to feed either the vainglory or the pensive curiosity of the spectator. Then I went over from our summer colony to Kittery Point, and got a boat, and sailed out to have a look at these subordinate enemies in the first hours of their imprisonment.


It was an afternoon of the brilliancy known only to an afternoon of the American summer, and the water of the swift Piscataqua River glittered in the sun with a really incomparable brilliancy. But nothing could light up the great monster of a ship, painted the dismal lead color which our White Squadrons put on with the outbreak of the war, and she lay sullen in the stream with a look of ponderous repose, to which the activities of the coaling barges at her side, and of the sailors washing her decks, seemed quite unrelated... Continue reading book >>

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