The Unforgiving Minute By Craig M. Mullaney Book Review Sample
The Unforgiving Minute by Craig M. Mullaney
“The Unforgiving Minute-A Soldier’s Education” is one of the most inspiring candid memoirs written by the former Army Captain of the United States, Craig M. Mullaney. In the book, Mullaney gives an account of his education as a soldier. Though the book is an autobiography, it resembles a novel for its writing style. The story starts with Mullaney describing his life at West Point. He then gives an account of his experiences at Ranger School, Oxford followed by Afghanistan. The major goal of the novel is to demonstrate the education, training and character essential to excel in the unforgiving minute of the final combat. The book is a great attempt to accord Mullaney’s pre-combat lessons with his battlefield experience. On the whole, the book addresses the question “What is a soldier all about?”
Mullaney makes it clear from the book that joining the army is not an easy process. He departs to West Point to impress his disapproving father. In West Point, Mullaney learns to be meticulous, dutiful and accurate. At Ranger School, he learns about navigating the physical terrains and withstanding the exhausting tests of courage. At Oxford, he learns to read and think simultaneously, on the advice of his teacher. Finally, at home, Mullaney learns to make his father proud, but the father never came back. “The Unforgiving Minute” effectively counterpoints the before and after panoramas of a soldier’s combat career. It conveys Mullaney’s torrid sense of responsibility for his men. At West Point, as the author says, even an undone shoelace or a loose buckle would result in unimaginable words from the instructor.
Each section of the book has a distinct tone to express various consequences of Mullaney’s life, namely, student, soldier and veteran. Both at West Point and in the army, Mullaney’s sensitivity and intelligence are amazing. The education and training he underwent for the war provides an insight of the pain he took to measure his manhood. Being the oldest among the four children, born in an Irish-American working-class family, Mullaney’s maturity was far beyond his years as the novel starts with his departure for West Point in 1996. At West Point, Mullaney drives himself to succeed in both scholarship as well as sports. In the first section, Mullaney gives an account of his education and distinguishes the Spartan education at West Point to the Athenian style of education at Oxford.
Mullaney also provides information about his experiences at the Army Ranger School. He describes his passion and interest in world literature and history while he was at Oxford. He also narrates about his personal life as to how he met his would-be wife who belongs to the Indian descent but brought up at New Jersey. In the soldier section, Mullaney explains the days during which all his education was put to test. As a soldier in Afghanistan, all of Mullaney’s education was under evaluation. Mullaney proudly mentions about his experience in Gardez, Afghanistan when he takes part in a humanitarian mission to offer vaccination to the members of the Kuchi tribe. He gives details as to how the death of one of his soldiers on the Pakistan border in a war against al-Qaeda created agony whether or not he can handle the responsibility of the mission.
Mullaney questions himself about his commitment to the Army as a soldier. As a captain, he remembers the American state of mind that he learnt at the school from a superior, which advises to be polite, professional and prepared to kill the enemies. At the warfare, Mullaney learns how to act brave and courageously. In the third section of the book, Mullaney advises how it feels to become a soldier. Though there is much to say, Mullaney leaves it for his brother to learn at West Point. Mullaney’s word to word details about his experiences in the book makes the readers feel that he might have kept a journal of details. For example, Mullaney gives an example of his abrasive grey uniform trousers, which halted the growth of hair on the thighs.
One of the admirable aspects of the book is the way Mullaney accepts his mistakes and weaknesses throughout the book. He is a man who thinks deeply and acts in a responsible way about the men he leads in the war. His responsibility is also evident when he selects the insurance plan with the maximum coverage before departing to Afghanistan. Mullaney explains the events at the battle ground as events at a recreational tour. He accurately describes the war conditions of Afghanistan. However, rather than focusing on the external descriptions of the war, Mullaney talks about his internal journey. As Mullaney leaves to West Point, he learns from his education, as he moves to Oxford, he learns from the scholarship and finally at war, he learns from his mistakes.
The book is a combination of both suspense and pathos as Mullaney transits from one event of his life to another event. In addition to the inspiring experiences of Mullaney as he travels through life, there are various negative aspects of the book. In the first place, the book lacks a unifying theme. It does not specify whether the theme is all about being a leader or a soldier. Mullaney spends most of the book in explaining about his military adventures. The initial chapters are very long and boring as they do not contain anything interesting rather than Mullaney’s daily course of activities. The book lacks research, which is evident when Mullaney misuses the word “cow” for West Point. He overemphasizes the sport of skydiving to impress the inexperienced, but does not realize that it is a part if military training and every soldier has to go through it.
On a few occasions, Mullaney repeats the same event over and over, which is time consuming. Mullaney speaks about his father in several parts of the book. Though he knew that his father would never come back, he keeps on trying his best to make his father proud. Mullaney demands an answer from his father about the reason for divorcing his mother, but fails to understand that he is not in a position to judge the morality of his father’s decision. In the book, Mullaney uses several adjectives and adverbs, which makes the sentences catchy. He also overemphasizes alcohol for an alarming number of times. In spite of a few negative elements, the book is a true inspiration for the readers. Each of Mullaney’s experiences teaches a lesson. While Mullaney was wise enough to learn from his experiences physically, he wants to impart the same to the readers.
Mullaney wishes to express the difficulties of a combat, the intensive training one has to go through and the hardships at the battle. Mullaney states the importance of being courageous in the battleground because any single mistake on behalf of the leader would prove fatal to the entire team. Taking the ideas from diverse writers, such as Rudyard Kipling, T.E. Lawrence, Thucydides and Jane Austen, Mullaney succeeds in providing an impressive treatise. The book “The Unforgiving Minute” is a classic memoir of personal development and war. Mullaney has done a great job by providing the memoir to the nation as it a mandate for every to-be soldier to accept the facts stated in the book. He says that he was not strong enough to serve in the army for a longer time and thus, decided to quit.
Mullaney is not right in making this decision; simultaneously, he is not wrong as he felt he should support his family for the rest of his life. Mullaney dedicated a major portion of the book describing his life at West Point, which is a lesson for every junior officer looking to join the army. There is a lot to learn from Mullaney’s life at West Point as it showcases how a beginner can transform himself into a soldier through vigorous physical and mental training. Mullaney continued his training in spite of a broken shoulder, which represents his passion for the Army and the nation. The way Mullaney felt responsible for the commitment of his mission in Afghanistan against the al-Qaeda explains how great a leader he is.
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