Saving Private Essay

The Perspective of a Member of a Small Combat Unit Unfortunately, the perspective of the individual does not describe accurately the situation in which Reiben and others find themselves. Only the morality of the family can claim equal antiquity, and the individualism that is part of family life as I have described it is surely a more recent invention.They are not, after all, civilians, but members of a military unit. The morality of the small combat unit is the morality of the tribe.

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Each is concerned with the well-being of people: the first, with the agent himself and his family; the second, with the members of the small combat unit; the third, with the citizens of the agent's nation; and the fourth, with human beings in general.

Moreover, each perspective presents the agent with practical obligations that have, or claim to have, an absolute hold on him.

Less often appreciated is the film's sustained discussion of the morality of war.

-- RHT teven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan has been justly praised as the most realistic portrait of combat on film.

They are the people on whom one must rely if one is to survive.

Even the higher-ups in one's own chain of command may justifiably be viewed with a jaundiced eye by the combat soldier. In this essay I examine Spielberg's film, focusing on the relations among the several moral perspectives presented in it. This aspect of the film is even more important, in my view, than the film's realism.If the task of the soldier is to survive long enough to return home, then the high command seems bent on forestalling or preventing that outcome almost as much as the enemy, by sending him repeatedly into combat.If the leaders of the high command are not the soldier's friends, however, certainly the enemy, who intend to kill him, are even less so.The Individual Perspective The perspective of the soldier as an individual might well be called the perspective of the soldier as a civilian.(When I speak of the "individual" I do not mean that term in a narrow sense, one which prescinds from all family connections, but in a broad sense, which places the person in the context of his family and home.) The men in Captain Miller's unit identify themselves with their pre-military lives, with who they were "back home." We see this repeatedly in the film: they evoke the image of home to explain themselves to others.These frameworks are related to each other in complex ways.They support each other, but they also conflict with each other, as I hope to show.Fourth and finally, there is the universal perspective of the soldier as one moral agent among many, including the soldiers on the other side.The fourth perspective is the one we normally associate in the contemporary world with the word "morality." It is important to note, however, that each of the perspectives above is, or can be seen as, a moral or ethical framework.


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