Study Guide

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand Letters

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Return to Sender

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is brought to you by the letter.

That's not a typo. It's not brought to you by the letter M or the number 3 or anything like that, but it does have three scenes centering around an actual letter. Handwritten ones, too—not even letters typed and printed on the computer. For all we know, they even sealed them with a wax stamp.

The first letter is a letter from the Major to Lord Dagenham's people. "I shall write a stern letter to the planning officer" (12.50), he says, and that's what he does. That letter is pretty inconsequential. Dagenham does receive it, but he doesn't really care about the Major's dissenting opinion.

Next, Mrs. Ali wants to write a letter to her husband's family, explaining the situation between Amina and Abdul Wahid. But at the same time she's afraid to: it could change not only their lives, but her life. She's written it, but has been carrying it around. "A letter unposted is a heavy burden" (14.35), the Major says, and he takes her to mail it. She does, and her mailing of the letter is in a paragraph set apart from the rest of the chapter, emphasizing the importance of it.

Finally, when the Major swoops in to rescue Mrs. Ali at the end, he wonders why she hasn't written. "But I did write, several times" (21.54), she says, and they realize that her brother-in-law, Dawid, has been hiding her letters. These old folks need to learn to text.

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