Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Hero for All Centuries: Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe

O'er the hills and o'er the main
Through Flanders, Portugal and Spain.
King George commands and we obey
Over the hills and far away.

-a traditonal English tune from the early 1700s

Literature is inherintly democratizing.

Simply put, reading feeds us knowledge. Knowledge engenders opportunity. Jack London, Henry Miller, and Joseph Conrad are the leavening power of libraries, personified.

To know libraries, to love libraries, is to understand what this means. So, as I read Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series, I'm reminded of how life is not always so open; advancement takes effort.

Richard Sharpe is a soldier in the Duke of Wellington's army during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815). Officerhood at this time was the near exclusive province of the aristocracy. Only 10 percent of officers during this period are known to have risen 'from the ranks' to being an officer.

Enter Sharpe. He's not an aristocrat, yet his deeds on the battlefield and his ability win the trust of his men, are enough to merit him the rank of Lieutenant. This makes for delicious class conflict as we go through the series and see Sharpe and his 95th Rifles from India to Spain to Portugal and France, 24 novels in all...and all available at the Sacramento Public Library.

Not to be upstaged are the moving-picture versions of the series. It's a great compilation and the capable English actor, Sean Bean, plays Sharpe quite fittingly. You may access a list of SPL's holdings of the DVDs by clicking here: DVD Sharpes.

So, why should we be interested in the exlpoits of Lieutenant Sharpe? While he's brave, bold, and well-liked, his rise to officerdom is predicated on hard work. He's that underdog that we all love to see do well. Based on this, Sharpe's journey has value. Effort has value because effort is democratizing. Just like libraries.


Anonymous said...

its good to know about it? where did you get that information?

DanskaBeaver said...

Be a bit more specific with your inquiry and I'll be happy to answer. Thanks...