In this short story by Jack London, he illustrates that war often rewards certain behaviors while punishes humane behavior.
The story illustrates the inherent dehumanization in a kill-or-be-killed mentality.
The black-eyed young soldier demonstrates he has retained his moral center when he realizes he can shoot and kill a ginger-bearded enemy soldier at close range. When he sees the man, what registers is a fellow human being:
“The eyes were blue and wide apart, with laughter-wrinkles in the corners that showed despite the tired and anxious expression of the whole face.”
The young man shows his humanity in his decision not to kill this man. However, irony will strike.
Listen Now to this tribute to Jack London, and to the men and women who have served these United States of America.