For Esmé with Love and Squalor
How we cite our quotes:
I remember standing at an end window of our Quonset hut for a very long time, looking out at the slanting, dreary rain, my trigger finger itching imperceptibly, if at all. I could hear behind my back the uncomradely scratching of many fountain pens on many sheets of V-mail paper. (4)
This brief passage instantly debunks any myths we may have of eager, gung-ho soldiers who can't wait to see battle – these soldiers are bored, not looking forward to fighting, and more interested in writing letters home than singing war songs and looking forward to action.
I told her that I'd never written a story for anybody, but that it seemed like exactly the right time to get down to it.
She nodded. "Make it extremely squalid and moving," she suggested. "Are you at all acquainted with squalor?"
I said not exactly but that I was getting better acquainted with it, in one form or another, all the time, and that I'd do my best to come up to her specifications. We shook hands. (100-102)
Of course the narrator is getting better acquainted with squalor – after all, he is in a war, and, in this story, war = squalor.
"Goodbye," Esmé said. "I hope you return from the war with all your faculties intact." (103)
This seems like a faintly grim thing to say – as though the best to hope for is returning with one's faculties merely intact. However, Esmé doesn't mean for it to be interpreted this way; coming from her, it's the equivalent of "Good luck!" However, we can't help but think of it the first way, which is fairly accurate.