The Prussian Officer Quotes


The orderly felt he was connected with that figure moving so suddenly on horseback: he followed it like a shadow, mute and inevitable and damned by it.

Narrator, section 1

Here we see the foreshadowing of demise. The orderly senses that his eventual 'damnation' is 'inevitable' and will be a direct consequence of his link to the officer. He also feels powerless - mute, as he puts it - because any and everything he says seems only to provoke the officer to anger, who beats him as a futile attempt to relive his sexual frustration and abhor ration of himself and his situation.

Gradually the officer had become aware of his servant's young, vigorous, unconscious presence about him. He could not get away from the sense of the youth's person, while he was in attendance. It was like a warm flame upon the older man's tense, rigid body, that had become almost unliving, fixed. There was something so free and self-contained about him, and something in the young fellow's movement, that made the officer aware of him. And this irritated the Prussian.

Narrator, section 1

This section recounts the officer's growing infatuation with his orderly - an infatuation that is to prove devastating for both. He feels himself attracted to the young officer, but because of societal conventions and his rank, he will never be able to act upon his urges. Thus, his desires only serve to infuriate him.

He was a man of passionate temper, who had always kept himself suppressed. Occasionally there had been a duel, an outburst before the soldiers. He knew himself to be always on the point of breaking out.

Narrator, section 1

Here Lawrence gives another hint that this story will not end well. The officer is constantly guarding against his own temper - suppressing it deep down inside of him. He is also forced to suppress his sexual desires for the orderly, but his attempts to stifle these urges only push his further towards the breaking point, leading him to frequently beat up his orderly as an outlet for his anger.

He could not rest when the soldier was away, and when he was present, he glared at him with tormented eyes. [...] And he became harsh and cruelly bullying, using contempt and satire. The young soldier only grew more mute and expressionless.

Narrator, section 1

The officer is caught in a hopeless predicament - he can't stand the orderly being away from him and can't abide his presence either. He knows that the orderly spends a lot of his free time with his girlfriend, driving him into a jealous rage which the orderly responds to by just shutting himself off from the officer entirely. He serves the officer without revealing any of his emotions, which of course angers the officer even more. He craves the orderly's attention but could never ask for it, so he hurts him over and over just to get a reaction - any reaction - from him.

The youth instinctively tried to keep himself intact: he tried to serve the officer as if the latter were an abstract authority and not a man. All his instinct was to avoid personal contact, even definite hate. But in spite of himself the hate grew, responsive to the officer's passion.

Narrator, section 1

The young orderly knows it would be mutiny to fight back against the frequent beatings he receives, and resolves to just get through it without showing the officer how much it is affecting him. He knows he only has two months left of service, and is waiting it out. To do anything else is to sabotage his future career and show the officer that he has power over him, and he cannot allow that. He must seem unaffected, aloof, impenetrable. This of course, only leads the officer to push him further, trying to see what will eventually make the orderly snap.

The officer tried hard not to admit the passion that had got hold of him. He would not know that his feeling for his orderly was anything but that of a man incensed by his stupid, perverse servant. So, keeping quite justified and conventional in his consciousness, he let the other thing run on.

Narrator , section 1

The officer is obviously in complete denial about his feelings, explaining them away as mere irritation at his bumbling, useless servant. This idea is much easier to reconcile than the though of homosexual tenancies, and so he feeds himself this lie in order to preserve the strange and toxic relationship he has with his orderly.

Deep inside him was the intense gratification of his passion, still working powerfully. Then there was a counter-action, a horrible breaking down of something inside him, a whole agony of reaction. He stood there for an hour motionless, a chaos of sensations, but rigid with a will to keep blank his consciousness, to prevent his mind grasping. And he held himself so until the worst of the stress had passed, when he began to drink, drank himself to an intoxication, till he slept obliterated.

Narrator, section 1

This time, the officer beats out a confession from the orderly - he has been writing love poems to his girlfriend. The beats the orderly mercilessly and sends him away, finally realizing with horror why this has upset him so much. He knows he must prevent himself from fully understanding these urges, for they are abhorrent to him and were illegal at the time as well. He drinks himself into a stupor and when he wakes continues to push the epiphany from his mind, pretending for all the world that nothing has happened.

[...] nothing would prevent the day from coming, nothing would save him from having to get up and saddle the Captain's horse, and make the Captain's coffee. It was there, inevitable. And then, he thought, it was impossible. Yet they would not leave him free. He must go and take the coffee to the Captain. He was too stunned to understand it. He only knew it was inevitable--inevitable, however long he lay inert.

Narrator, section 1

Here we can see just how mentally and emotional exhausted the orderly has become. He repeats the word 'inevitable' three times - a word that was used much earlier and echoes again here to reinforce the foreshadowing of catastrophe. He must get up and force his bruised and beaten body to serve his cruel master, and is too fatigued to fully understand it.

But it was only the outside of the orderly's body that was obeying so humbly and mechanically. Inside had gradually accumulated a core into which all the energy of that young life was compact and concentrated

Narrator, section 2

The orderly has snapped out of his 'auto-pilot' mentality - he moves with purpose, building the tension up towards its climax. He acts with his whole being focused on this single task, and the reader senses that he has more than just a simple errand on his mind, even if he himself does not know this yet.

The spur of the officer caught in a tree-root, he went down backwards with a crash, the middle of his back thudding sickeningly against a sharp-edged tree-base, the pot flying away. And in a second the orderly, with serious, earnest young face, and underlip between his teeth, had got his knee in the officer's chest and was pressing the chin backward over the farther edge of the tree-stump, pressing, with all his heart behind in a passion of relief, the tension of his wrists exquisite with relief. [...] He did not relax one hair's breadth, but, all the force of all his blood exulting in his thrust, he shoved back the head of the other man, till there was a little "cluck" and a crunching sensation. Then he felt as if his head went to vapour. [...] It pleased him to keep his hands pressing back the chin, to feel the chest of the other man yield in expiration to the weight of his strong, young knees, to feel the hard twitchings of the prostrate body jerking his own whole frame, which was pressed down on it.

Narrator, section 2

The scene where the tension becomes too insurmountable arrives, and the orderly murders the officer. He forces him to the ground and breaks his neck, reveling in the officer's body twitching as his life force drains. Here is the release of all the hatred, fear and anxiety that has had him so tightly would that this violent ending was almost 'inevitable' - the word used over and over in the story.

He [the orderly] had gone out from everyday life into the unknown, and he could not, he even did not want to go back

Narrator, section 2

The orderly is simultaneously freed and traumatized by the act of violence he has committed. The accumulation of such high levels of stress has taken its toll and he roams around, dazed and not fully comprehending what he has done.

It was all right, somehow. It was peace. But now he had got beyond himself. He had never been here before. Was it life, or not life? He was by himself. They were in a big, bright place, those others, and he was outside.

Narrator, section 3

The orderly is stumbling around the countryside in a dehydrated daze. He is delirious and imagines he sees the Captain's face. He floats in and out of consciousness, and detaches himself from the act of violence he has committed. He feels himself somehow removed from everything, and rambles about how nothing really matters anymore.

The bodies of the two men lay together, side by side, in the mortuary, the one white and slender, but laid rigidly at rest, the other looking as if every moment it must rouse into life again, so young and unused, from a slumber.

Narrator, section 3

The bodies of the two men ironically end up next to each other in the mortuary, and the narrator reflects on how the youth does not look like it should be dead, but that only sleeping, wheras the officer looks at rest being dead.

Update this section!

You can help us out by revising, improving and updating this section.

Update this section

After you claim a section you’ll have 24 hours to send in a draft. An editor will review the submission and either publish your submission or provide feedback.