The Thin Red Line is author James Jones's fictional account of the World War II Galloping Horse portion of the Battle of Mount Austen, specifically Hill 53, during the Guadalcanal campaign, which he experienced firsthand in the United States Army's 25th Infantry Division. The novel has been adapted for motion pictures twice, first in 1964 and then in Terrence Malick's 1998 adaptation.
Like Jones's two other World War II novels, the story focuses on a number of characters and their differing reactions to combat; the central characters are actually the same in all three books but their names have necessarily been changed, since Pvt. Witt's counterpart in From Here to Eternity (Prewitt) died at its conclusion. While none of the characters are particularly attractive or warm, Jones effectively conveys the alienation and horror that characterized the Pacific theatre of war for the American Army rifleman.
Instead of a conventional military adventure story, the author presents a more realistic depiction of battle where ordinary people experience a mix of murder, fear, homosexuality, dread, helplessness, frustration, meanness, terror, and emptiness. The novel depicts (but is careful not to...