The Four Feathers: Journey

How does the text convey a physical and/or spiritual journey? The movie The Four Feathers is set in England, 1884 as a young British officer (and son of a British General) Harry Feversham announces his engagement to the young and beautiful Ethne Eustance. Their best friend Jack, who is Harry’s closest comrade, loves Ethne as well, but the two are completely oblivious to his jealousy and are happy. News arrives one evening that their regiment (the Royal Cumbrians) are to be sent to Sudan to aid other British soldiers at war.

Harry panics and quietly resigns his commission that night. Seeing his horrified face, the audience can guess that he has acted out of fear. Harry’s comrades learn of his abandonment, and three of them send him white feathers, a symbol of his cowardice. When he meets up with his fiancee, she believes he has resigned to stay with her. She assures him that she would be quite happy for him to apologise and rejoin the boys. Harry yells that the only reason he acted so was because he is too scared to go to war and die. Then maybe you are a coward,” she tells him, and he is presented with a fourth feather from her. Jack still has faith in his best friend though, telling the other men “he’ll be there. ” As the men are about to depart for Sudan, Harry finds his father, General Feversham, and approaches him. His father says loudly “I don’t know you. ” This public disownment, coupled with the emotional blow from his fiancee, forces Harry to do some rethinking. He questions his own actions – was he a coward? He eventually decides to discreetly travel to Sudan and see if he can aid his old friends.

After being left alone to starve in the desert, he is rescued by a Sudanese man named Abou Fatma, with whom Harry forms a friendship later on. Abou takes him to his old regiment, who use natives as extra soldiers, where Harry disguises himself as an Arab. None of his friends recognise him. Many events that then occur push Harry and test his commitment. He sneaks into an army of Sudanese and Mahdi fighters who plan to ambush the British. When the attack takes place, the Royal Cumbrians’ numbers severely diminish before they retreat.

Jack’s rifle misfires, injuring his face, and just as the enemy is about to trample him, Harry pulls him onto a horse and escapes with Abou. Harry finds letters from Ethne to Jack, and discovers that the two are going to marry. Harry is outraged that Jack would steal his love, and tells Abou he hates Jack. But then Jack awakens blind and scared out of his mind and begins to cry out. When Harry sees him looking so pathetic, his anger is extinguished – this is why they are best friends. Harry goes to him and wordlessly holds him, never revealing his identity, and Jack touches his face, still crying.

He transports Jack to the retreating British regiment and begins his search for another old friend, Colonel Trench, who was captured. News reaches Harry that Colonel Trench is in a prison-fortress at Omm Durman, led by an angry Sudanese war-survivor. In order to rescue his friend, Harry allows himself to be captured and taken there. Here, Harry is beaten and starved, and slowly becomes like a savage. When Abou sneaks in to give him food, Harry begins to cry on his shoulder, and Abou sees just how changed the man is. With Abou’s help and encouragement, Harry manages to escape with Colonel Trench.

Harry bids farewell to his friend Abou, and sets off for England. Here, his friends and family have heard all about his travels and courageous exploits in Sudan. Many doubt he is alive after so much. But then he returns to them, and his comrades of the Royal Cumbrians regard him as a hero. Lastly, Harry visits Jack, his best friend of many years. They are oddly formal to each other, unsure of their feelings. But when Jack drops his papers and Harry retrieves them for him, Jack touches his face. He is obviously hit with Deja Vu; he now knows it was Harry that saved him in that Sudanese desert.

Harry Feversham’s emotional and spiritual adventure was a life-changing event for him. Being called to fight for his country was too much for Harry at the time. He was afraid of it, afraid of death. He brought shame and humiliation on his friends and family, and was therefore presented with the four feathers of cowardice, symbols of disgrace. But after so many trials were set before him, Harry’s character developed. He was not afraid, which helped him redeem himself in the eyes of his friends, his father, and Ethne. The four feathers no longer applied; he was no coward.

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