Mary Renault's The Last of the Wine Essay
The Last of the Wine, written by Mary Renault and published by Pantheon Books in 1956, is a classical novel that is both historically informative and entertaining. It is a recreation of classical Greece during the Peloponnesian War, when Pericles was the leader of the city of Athens. The story is being told in the first person narrative by Alexas, an Athenian soldier who survives the war. He reflects on his childhood, his experiences as a soldier, and his society's reaction to the ravages of the Peloponnesian war. This was a time when the Spartans had the city of Athens under siege. They burned the surrounding farms, cutting off the food supply of the Athenians who sought refuge inside the city. …show more content…
In The Last of the Wine, Renault cleverly uses the first person narrative to create an initial position from which to view the action, and I found myself personally drawn into her story. She skillfully constructs a dialogue between three persons from different eras sharing the common experiences of war and political corruption. Alexis talks about his experiences growing up and fighting in the Peloponnesian wars. Renault draws a parallel between his experiences and hers in Britain in World War II. These caused me to reflect on the news media's horrifying reports of numerous wars around the world, in my era. We each take the position of moralistic observer and innocent victim, reacting sensitively to the moods and movements of our times.
By highlighting the Spartan siege of Athens, Renault is bemoaning the fact that war, and the misuse of political power, have reduced her once prosperous British Society to a state of degradation. Rich and poor suffer alike, but this shared suffering can serve as a unifying force to propel the people to greater progress, as is evident by the Athenians uniting to free their city from tyranny. In Athens, as in Britain, people were suffering from starvation and diseases. They lived in constant fear of enemy attacks. Children, the