Will Stockdale’s father is opposed to his son being drafted, but Will never makes a fuss about anything.
From what Will tells, readers learn he’s an amiable, Georgia redneck, dumber than a box of wet rocks and totally innocent of how the world works.
(Andy Griffith played Pvt. Will Stockdale in the TV, Broadway, and film versions of the novel, which gives you an idea of the character’s personality. You can see Griffith as Will in the black-and-white film version at free movies.)
Bused off to camp to be sorted for duty, Will meets Ben Whitledge, a little guy with big dreams and military knowledge straight from the silver screen.
With the best of intentions, Will and Ben make total fools of the military — and never realize what they’ve done.
Hyman drew on his Air Force experience to create his picture of military life. Readers in 1954 would have understood the military processes that baffle Will and laughed at his ignorance. Readers in today’s post-conscription era will probably be little wiser than Will.
Today’s readers probably won’t laugh as heartily as 1950’s readers either. We’ve seen too many reruns of The Beverly Hillbillies to be delighted by redneck jokes.
In short, No Time for Sergeants is past its sell-by date.No Time for Sergeants By Mac Hyman
Random House, 1954
#6 on the 1954 bestseller list
My grade C-
2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni