Study Guide

From Here to Eternity

From Here to Eternity Summary

As the movie begins, ex-boxer, current bugler, and career soldier Robert E. Lee Prewitt arrives at Schofield Barracks in Oahu, Hawaii. As soon as he gets there, he starts to face serious challenges. His captain, Dana Holmes, wants him to fight in a boxing tournament. Prewitt won't do it—he gave up boxing after blinding a friend in the ring. Holmes decides to bring the pain, forcing his sergeants and other soldiers to bully Prewitt, inflicting all sorts of unnecessary abuse on him. Prewitt's friend Angelo Maggio is pretty much the only guy on his side.

Meanwhile, Sgt. Milton Warden pursues an affair with Captain Holmes' wife, Karen. (While Warden goes along with the official abuse of Prewitt, he seems pretty disapproving of Captain Holmes.) After sharing a hot beach-based make out sesh, Karen tells Holmes about her horrible marriage to Holmes—marked by his constant affairs, and his irresponsibility. One time he passed out drunk and couldn't get Karen medical attention, causing her to have a miscarriage and lose the ability to have children.

At the same time, Prewitt and Maggio go to a somewhat brothel-ish club called The New Congress Club, where Prewitt starts to fall in love with a girl named Lorene (real name Alma). These two budding couples get closer.

After stupidly skipping out on his duties in order to go on a bender in town, Maggio gets sent to the stockade—run by a personal enemy, Sgt. Judson. Shortly thereafter, Prewitt manages to end the abuse: he stands up for himself, fighting and beating one of the sergeants, Ike Galovitch. The base commander witnesses this, discovers what's happening and forces Captain Holmes to resign.

Unfortunately, Sgt. Judson has been severely beating Maggio, who escapes and dies in Prewitt' s arms. Prewitt seeks revenge, challenging Judson to a fight, which quickly turns into a knife-fight. Prewitt kills Judson, but gets wounded himself. Meanwhile, Karen has been trying to convince Warden to apply to become an officer, so she can divorce Holmes and marry him.

Prewitt seeks shelter with Lorene/Alma to recover from his wound. But then the attack on Pearl Harbor happens, helping to decide everyone's fate for them. Warden courageously leads the other soldiers, directing them in shooting down Japanese planes. Prewitt leaves, against Alma's wishes, and tries to rejoin his unit. But his own men shoot him when he's mistaken for an invader. In the end, Warden and Karen can't stay together either, and she leaves Hawaii on the same ship as Alma, where they chat and remember.

  • Scene 1

    Scene 1

    • Having left the bugle corps on the mainland U.S., Robert E. Lee Prewitt arrives at Schofield Barracks on Oahu, Hawaii, where he's joining an infantry company.
    • He runs into his old friend, Angelo Maggio, explaining what happened.
    • He also meets Sgt. Warden, who strictly orders him not to hang out and play pool or do anything fun.
    • Prewitt goes to meet Captain Holmes, and has to explain why he quit the bugle corps: he was passed over for chief bugler and was irritated because thought he was a better bugler.
    • Holmes wants Prewitt to box, but Prewitt says he doesn't want to—he accidentally blinded a friend in the ring, and quit.
    • Holmes strictly addresses him, but says they won't pressure him to do it.
    • After Holmes leaves, Warden tells Prewitt that this was a bad idea—Holmes isn't going to just take "No" for "No."
    • They spot Captain Holmes' wife, and Warden checks her out. He urges Prewitt to fight, telling him the individual doesn't matter in the army, but Prewitt remains undeterred.
    • After Prewitt leaves, Warden continues checking out Karen Holmes. A company clerk tells him that Karen Holmes has had affairs with other soldiers.
    • Karen stops and talks to him, looking for Captain Holmes.
  • Scene 2

    Scene 2

    • In her bedroom, Karen Holmes sits combing her hair, when Captain Holmes comes in. Holmes complains about the promotion he's waiting for (and isn't getting) from the general.
    • When Karen says she was looking for him, Holmes says he was visiting a girlfriend. They apparently have an open relationship.
    • They argue about something bad that happened in the past—Captain Holmes claiming it was an "accident." Karen kicks him out of her bedroom.
    • In a barracks lounge, some soldiers are relaxing. Prewitt's playing pool. The company boxers come up to him and try to convince him to fight.
    • They're initially respectful but then start to get threatening. Maggio sticks up for Prewitt, and Prewitt tells them to mess with him if they want to, but he won't fight.
    • After talking in the barracks with another soldier, and trying to figure out Warden's deal, Prewitt marches with the other soldiers on the army grounds. The sergeant starts bullying Prewitt and acting like he wasn't marching correctly.
    • The same bullying happens, when they're putting together their rifles. Prewitt finishes first, and the sergeant acts like he didn't do it right, and makes him run laps.
    • There's more phony punishment when they're working out outside. When Maggio sticks up for Prewitt, he has to run too.
    • Meanwhile, Warden continues his Karen Holmes fixation. Captain Holmes urges Warden to go out and have more fun in the world—ironic, considering Warden's thoughts.
    • In the rain, Warden walks over to Holmes' house, acting like he's looking for the Captain. Karen Holmes lets him in.
    • He starts hitting on her, but things get serious when Karen expresses the misery to which her marriage has led her, talking about how it's wasted her life, and left her without children.
    • Before Warden leaves, he kisses her.
  • Scene 3

    Scene 3

    • The soldiers line up for payday, and then get ready to enjoy the weekend, getting dressed in the barracks. Maggio cheers Prewitt up (Prewitt's moody because of "The Treatment") and drags him into town.
    • A dude named Maylon Stark tells Warden that Karen Holmes used to have affairs with lots of guys at Fort Bliss—and that he was one of them.
    • Warden meets Karen on a park bench, and they argue: Karen thinks he probably thinks she's a tramp, but he denies it.
    • He says he's taking chances on getting court-martialed by dating her. They make up—both have bathing suits on under their clothes and they decide to go to the beach.
    • Prewitt and Maggio walk around downtown Honolulu drunk, and go to a place called The New Congress Club.
    • The woman who runs it, Mrs. Kipfer, chides them for their heavy drinking but lets them in. Sgt. "Fatso" Judson is loudly playing the piano.
    • One of the "hostesses" tries to show Prewitt around, but he notices another hostess and decides to go talk to her.
    • Her name's Lorene, as Prewitt learns when they start to chat and hit it off.
    • Maggio causes a disruption, however, telling Judson—who runs the stockade—to stop playing the piano. Judson calls him a "Wop," which escalates things. But Prewitt and another soldier break up the fight.
    • Lorene's moved on to talking to someone else, but Prewitt comes back and jealously sulks, listening to the conversation. Prewitt argues with the soldier, driving him and Lorene away.
  • Scene 4

    Scene 4

    • Warden and Karen go to the beach, stripping down to their bathing suits and then jumping into the waves.
    • Back at the New Congress Club, Prewitt continues sulking. Lorene comes back and they argue over Prewitt's behavior. He admits he was jealous, and things calm down.
    • Lorene invites him upstairs to hang out and have a drink. He accepts.
    • As a wave crashes on the beach, Karen and Warden make out in the surf (the famous scene).
    • Back on their beach towel, Karen says Warden's a good kisser. But Warden acts jealous, and asks her angrily about the other men she's had affairs with.
    • Karen explains that her husband is a serial adulterer and that she's just been seeing other men because her marriage is so terrible.
    • She tells him about how, when she was pregnant, her husband once got drunk after being out with another woman.
    • He passed out, failed to get her medical attention, and she gave birth to a stillborn baby and lost the ability to have children.
    • Warden apologizes and they confess their love for each other.
    • Back at the New Congress Club, Lorene tells Prewitt about her life. She says she was dating a guy who left her for a more high status woman in her home state, Oregon. After that, she came out to work in Hawaii.
    • Maggio comes in bringing a bottle of whiskey. He gives some to Prewitt, but Lorene doesn't drink. Maggio chats and leaves.
    • Lorene asks Prewitt about "The Treatment" and he explains how the other guys have been bullying him.
    • He also tells her about how he accidentally blinded his friend, Dixie Wells, in the ring. She empathizes.
  • Scene 5

    Scene 5

    • With Prewitt, the bullying resumes. After commiserating with another sympathetic soldier, Prewitt gets mud splashed in his face by a sergeant while crawling and gets forced to dig a giant ditch and re-fill it.
    • We see a bunch of soldiers singing and playing the song "Re-Enlistment Blues" as Prewitt listens on his bed.
    • While at the boxing ring, Prewitt is doing some chores. Another sergeant tries to bully him into cleaning up after intentionally spilling a bucket on him.
    • Prewitt refuses, and Captain Holmes forces Prewitt to go on multiple marches up a mountain. The soldier who supervises him sympathetically shares a cigarette with him.
    • Holmes forces Prewitt to do it all over again once he comes back.
    • Holmes tells Warden to prepare court-martial papers against Prewitt, but Warden convinces him to double company punishment instead. Holmes agrees.
    • We see Prewitt and Maggio working in the barracks kitchen.
    • Warden shows up and somewhat hostilely jokes with Prewitt—they try to figure out what new duties Prewitt can do. But Prewitt remains resistant. He won't box.
    • Warden and an old soldier talk about Holmes. When the other soldier chides him, Warden says he won't be Holmes' stooge much longer—he doesn't like it.
    • At a bar, another soldier is telling Prewitt to lodge an official complaint against Holmes. But Prewitt refuses—he won't give them the satisfaction. He demonstrates his ace bugling skills. Warden and Maggio and everyone else seem impressed.
    • Sgt. Judson enters and grabs a picture of Maggio's sister from Maggio. He kisses it, and then Maggio hits him over the head with a stool.
    • They almost get into a fight, but Warden breaks it up. Judson threatens to beat Maggio if he ever ends up in the stockade.
    • Outside, Prewitt and Warden have a pleasant moment of reconciliation.
  • Scene 6

    Scene 6

    • When the soldiers are getting ready to go into town, Maggio hangs back for a little. But a sergeant finds him and takes away his weekend pass—a guard got sick, and now Maggio has to pull guard duty.
    • At the New Congress Club, Lorene and Prewitt argue. She's busy, but Prewitt wants to spend time with her. Mrs. Kipfer pleasantly urges her to go chat with the other guys.
    • Lorene tells him her real name is Alma Burke, and that Mrs. Kipfer picked her fake name from a perfume ad.
    • Alma sneaks away from the club, pretending to be sick, to hang out with Prewitt at a bar. Prewitt tells her about bugling, and how he got to play "Taps" at Arlington National Cemetery in front of the President.
    • A drunk Maggio shows up—he's left his post in order to go drink. He's technically AWOL (absent without leave).
    • Outside, a drunk, shirtless Maggio is lying around. Prewitt finds him and tries to drag him back before he gets caught.
    • He goes to get him a cab, but military policemen arrest Maggio before Prewitt comes back.
    • Later, at the barracks, the soldiers talk about how Maggio's being court-martialed. Warden tells Prewitt he'll let him know what happens. He gets a phone call and finds out that Maggio's been sentenced to six months in the stockade.
    • We see Maggio walking into the stockade. He tells the guard he'll manage to escape. Inside, Judson confronts him, clearly relishing the opportunity to start beating him up. Judson grabs a truncheon off the table and moves towards Maggio.
  • Scene 7

    Scene 7

    • We cut to Prewitt and Lorene hanging out at her place. He meets her roommate, and relaxes while Lorene makes drinks.
    • At night, Warden and Karen Holmes are having a rendezvous of their own, listening to music at an outdoor bar. But they leave when some soldiers come in, to avoid being detected.
    • Driving away, Karen and Warden discuss their future plans. They're both tired of sneaking around. Karen discusses divorcing Holmes.
    • She wants Warden to apply for officer training so he can leave Holmes' unit. Warden doesn't like officers and doesn't want to do it. They argue about it. They both admit that they're in love but miserable.
    • Back with Lorene and Prewitt, they're having an argument. Prewitt suggests marrying her, but  Lorene seems reluctant. She admits its because she doesn't want to marry a soldier. She wants a financially secure and "proper" life. But she's lonely and still wants to date Prewitt for that reason. He relents.
    • At Captain Holmes' house, he and Karen are discussing divorce. He knows she's having an affair, but he doesn't want the divorce since it would hurt his chances for a promotion.
    • On the military grounds, Prewitt and other soldiers are weeding. Another soldier who was released from the stockade tells Prewitt that Judson's been beating Maggio up over and over again.
    • A sergeant, Ike Galovitch, tries to bully him into boxing—he steps on Prewitt's fingers while he's weeding and they get into a big fight.
    • After a prolonged fight, Prewitt wins. Captain Holmes steps in, and even though the soldiers say Galovitch started it, Holmes does nothing… but he doesn't realize that the base commander saw the whole thing from a balcony.
  • Scene 8

    Scene 8

    • Prewitt jams with other soldiers as they play "Re-Enlistment Blues." He's clearly very drunk.
    • He wanders over to an extremely drunk Warden and they drink together, talking, and sharing a bottle in the middle of the road. They commiserate about their problems. Warden says he doesn't want to be an officer or be a guy like Holmes.
    • A Jeep almost runs them over, but stops short.
    • Maggio suddenly arrives—badly beaten, he's escaped the stockade. He falls into Prewitt's arms and tells him about how Judson beat him over and over again. Maggio dies in his arms.
    • At night, the soldiers hear Prewitt playing "Taps" for Maggio.
    • Later, in town, Prewitt tracks down Judson. Judson doesn't seem to realize that Prewitt was Maggio's friend.
    • Prewitt challenges him to a fight in a dark alley—not intending to kill Judson. But when Judson pulls a knife, Prewitt pulls his too (the one Judson dropped after pulling it on Maggio in the bar earlier). They fight. Prewitt kills Judson, and Judson seriously wounds Prewitt.
    • Bleeding, Prewitt arrives at Alma's. Extremely concerned, she takes care of him.
    • The next morning, Warden reads about Judson's murder in the newspaper, and the soldiers drill. A soldier arrives and tells Warden that Prewitt's been absent without leave for three days now.
    • Meanwhile, General Slater—the base commander—listens to a report in his office explaining how Captain Holmes abused Prewitt. Slater tells Holmes they're going to court-martial him—unless Holmes resigns. Holmes agrees to do so.
    • Then an officer threatens the sergeants, since they bullied Holmes, and demotes Sgt. Galovitch to private.
    • Karen Holmes calls Warden and begs to see him.
    • She meets Warden on a bench near the ocean. Warden explains he couldn't get himself to apply to become an officer. She's very disappointed… Warden tells her about Prewitt and how he's in trouble. He's worried about him.
    • Karen accuses him of not wanting to marry her and already being married to the army. But she admits that he does love her when he says he does.
    • They say goodbye. Warden says they'll meet again… somewhere. Karen agrees.
  • Scene 9

    Scene 9

    • Alma shows Prewitt a newspaper article about Judson's death—no one knows who the killer is. Prewitt is getting drunk.
    • We see soldiers eating in the mess hall, when they see planes flying in. They also hear explosions and think it's dynamiting exercises.
    • Suddenly the explosions are much closer and a plane guns down a soldier running across the field towards them. The Japanese are surprise-attacking the base at Pearl Harbor.
    • Prewitt hears about it on Alma's radio.
    • Warden tells the soldiers to get their rifles and go to their bunks to avoid getting killed by the planes.
    • The attack continues—we see the Japanese destroying ships and planes.
    • The soldiers try to get ammunition, but the soldier in charge won't give it to them because he doesn't have orders. Warden forces the door and seizes the ammo. Bombs keep falling.
    • Warden decides to rush outside and try shooting down some planes. We see more battle footage—ships explode, soldiers are strafed.
    • Warden leads some soldiers outside to attempt to shoot down planes with machine guns and even their rifles. They finally hit one and it goes down, exploding. Warden and another soldier celebrate.
    • Prewitt hears more about the attack by radio. He decides he needs to rejoin the other soldiers. Alma tries to stop him, but he heads outside—he loves the army too much. Alma says she'll marry him—anything if he won't go. But he goes.
    • Prewitt tries to rejoin his comrades, but soldiers shoot him, mistaking him for a Japanese paratrooper. He dies.
    • As the soldiers examine his body, Warden comes over. He says that Prewitt loved the army more than any soldier he ever knew, before instructing the soldiers to move his body.
    • Finally, we see Alma and Karen on a ship leaving Hawaii. Karen drops leis (flower garlands) into the ocean, and says that there's a legend—if the leis float to shore, you'll come back. If they don't, you won't.
    • Alma says she won't come back—her fiancé died during the attack. She claims he was a bomber pilot. When she says his name, "Robert E. Lee Prewitt," Karen recognizes it but doesn't say anything.
    • In the movie's final frame, we see the leis floating away, though we don't know where they're headed.