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"The Applicability of Rudyard Kipling's Poem 'The Winners' to Sam Mendes' Film 1917.

The key to Mendes 1917 lies in the early recitation of the last couplet of Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Winners": "Down to Gehenna or Up to the Throne,/ He travels fastest who travels alone." The key words are Gehenna and Throne. Gehenna was a valley near Jerusalem where, in ancient times, children were burned alive as sacrifices to the war god Molech. (Outraged by such blatant transgression, God renamed Gehenna "the tvalley of slaughter" where thousands would lose their lives in combat, not only in ancient times but in this case of Mendes' film in World War I.) Further, the World War I counterparts to those ancient high officials who sacrificed their children to Molech are the military leaders, whose decisions resulted in countless deaths. Conversely, within Mendes' film, the word "Throne" is a subtle reference to the kingdom beyond this life where, according to the old spiritual "Wayfaring Stranger" (sung late in the movie to British troops preparing for a battle), those who die in war will meet God the Father and Jesus the Savior and be reunited with their parents. The conflict of world views associated with the two terms "Gehenna" and "Throne" is never resolved in this film, whose final meaning remains ambiguous.


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"Down to Gehenna or Up to the Throne": Rudyard Kipling's Poem "The Winners" as the Key to Sam Mendes film 1917

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"The Applicability of Rudyard Kipling's Poem 'The Winners' to Sam Mendes' Film 1917.

The key to Mendes 1917 lies in the early recitation of the last couplet of Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Winners": "Down to Gehenna or Up to the Throne,/ He travels fastest who travels alone." The key words are Gehenna and Throne. Gehenna was a valley near Jerusalem where, in ancient times, children were burned alive as sacrifices to the war god Molech. (Outraged by such blatant transgression, God renamed Gehenna "the tvalley of slaughter" where thousands would lose their lives in combat, not only in ancient times but in this case of Mendes' film in World War I.) Further, the World War I counterparts to those ancient high officials who sacrificed their children to Molech are the military leaders, whose decisions resulted in countless deaths. Conversely, within Mendes' film, the word "Throne" is a subtle reference to the kingdom beyond this life where, according to the old spiritual "Wayfaring Stranger" (sung late in the movie to British troops preparing for a battle), those who die in war will meet God the Father and Jesus the Savior and be reunited with their parents. The conflict of world views associated with the two terms "Gehenna" and "Throne" is never resolved in this film, whose final meaning remains ambiguous.