World War I was the first global military conflict; it resulted in millions of human casualties, the fall of three empires, and ultimate changes in international politics. While many historians around the world are still preoccupied with studying its legacy, one of the ways to learn about the war’s horrors is through the narratives of its participants (Hutchinson, 65). Arthur Guy Empey’s Over the Top is a memoir about the author’s WWI experience. Empey became famous for his military prose and his passion for war heroism. While the author, an American himself, was excited about the war and rushed to join British forces before the US declared its participation, he was shocked by what he witnessed in combat. Over the Top is a collection of horrors the author had lived through on the Western Front: “if you are lucky enough to come back, you will be minus an arm or a leg” (Empey). His and his fellow soldiers’ memories of death, pain, and fear are an honest explanation of the events; they are written to remind us about the importance of peace.
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While Empey was not the only American author who fought in WWI, Over the Top was critically acclaimed in the US when he arrived in his homeland after being injured in combat. His graphic writing became not only a description of war carnage for the American public but has made Empey an advocate of his country’s military approach to a remote conflict (Soodalter 55). Until today, personal narratives about war experiences remain one of the most powerful ways to explain the logic behind historical events. Empey’s passion for man’s bravery and heroism, along with his brilliant writing, has made him a literary star along with his talented contemporaries, such as E.E. Cummings and Ernest Hemingway. After his return to the US, he became not also a famous author and a military activist but produced several films about his war experience.
Empey, Arthur Guy. Over the Top. Edizioni Savine, 2017. Web.
Hutchison, Hazel. “The Literature of World War I”. A Companion to American Literature. Edited by S. Belasco, T.S. Gaul, L. Johnson and M. Soto. Wiley & Sons, 2020, pp. 65-80. Web.
Soodalter, Ron. “The Self-Made Hero”. MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History vol. 33, no. 1, 2020, pp. 54-61.