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“Who pants for glory finds but short repose: a breath revives him, or a breath overthrows”… Alexander Pope
The position of glory is a precarious one at best says Alexander Pope. One who desperately seeks glory will find it only in passing, and in his quest for it can, in fact be consumed and consequently destroyed by it. In the film The Bridge Over the River Kwai, Colonel Nicholson is the character that best represents the quest for glory and the fleeting victory that it brings. In the process Nicholson disregards his position as a British officer and the responsibilities that he has to his country and to his men. The Colonel pursued the glory of building a magnificent bridge and when that glory was attained, he went too far, and muck like his cane he too was overthrown.
This pointless quest for personal glory happens many time throughout the course of events. Confronted with imprisonment at the hand of Colonel Sito, Nicholson tires to get the Japanese to abide by the Geneva Accords, and have only the enlisted men work, not the officers. Nicholson almost loses his life in this pursuit of glory, first when the Japanese threaten to shoot both him and his fellow officers, and a second time when he is imprisoned in the box and refuses his release unless all of his demands are met unconditionally. When this drama concludes, it appears that Nicholson has won, but has he upheld his duty as a British officer? He has increased the workload of the enlisted men, ends up having the officers work, and he does not simply work on the bridge as ordered, but he aids the enemy by improving it. All this is done so that people will see the bridge and say, “The British soldiers built that.” And the glory that he desperately seeks will be his.
The doctor seems to share Alexander Pope’s point of view throughout this ordeal. He is the voice of reason and subsequently is ignored by Nicholson entirely. He is ignored when he tells the Colonel to stop opposing Sito simply because of his pride, and he is ignored when he tells him not to have the wounded work as it could worsen there condition.
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