SYNOPSIS for Instructors of Literature
The Nazis have fired on the Greer, London is ablaze, and the streets of Leningrad are covered with blood. Still David Dremmer is content to work his father’s ranch and dream about his best friend’s wife.
Jesse, David’s father, has been injured in a fall and is in a wheelchair. He now spends his time chronicling his son’s failures.
David’s days are filled with labor, but his nights are spent listening to the old man’s muttered prayers. A neighbor brings an unbroken stallion to the ranch, and David finds something in the horse he understands. A powerful bond forms between David and Dancer, but war intrudes upon the lives of the two men. While attending a memorial service for his cousin, David meets Delores, a young woman caring for his grieving aunt. Delores attaches herself to him and, soon after the funeral, brings the aunt to the ranch for Christmas.
Weeks later, David receives a telegram from Delores telling him that she is pregnant with his child. He agrees to marry her only after enlisting in the Air Corps.
Before going overseas, David receives a two-week furlough and returns to the ranch. The gulf between David and Jesse is mitigated by their mutual alienation from Delores and her child. Afraid that he will not return and knowing Delores might sell the stallion, David makes Jesse promise to care for his horse should he not return.
David’s crew is stationed in East Anglia and is slated for the first of the deep penetrations into Germany. Near Schweinfurt, a German fighter penetrates their formation, blinds their pilot and kills the co-pilot. Having received some unofficial pilot training, David brings the crippled ship home. He receives a field promotion and a recommendation to flight school. Before shipping out, he volunteers for a final mission. They take flak over Belgium, and the crew is forced to bail out.
Belgian irregulars rescue the gravely wounded airmen. Sheltered in a wine cellar, David meets Nicole, a beautiful and intelligent young partisan. The cellar becomes a womb of discovery and love. Before leaving, he vows to return for her.
A Jewish physicist connected to the underground leads David and Bear to rendezvous with other partisans who are to cross the Channel. Before reaching their contact, the trio encounters a column of German artillery. The physicist directs the two airmen to a well, but, fearing they will be seen by a passing detachment, he stands and draws fire, sacrificing his life to save theirs.
David descends into the hole a confused cripple but emerges the next night with an understanding that will change his life.
The two friends are apprehended by a Wehrmacht patrol only minutes after surfacing. A jurisdictional dispute between the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe ensues, and the airmen are saved from almost certain death as Luftwaffe Intelligence Officer Heinrich Schneider assumes custody. Over the next few weeks, Schneider and David come to both admire and detest one another.
In an attempt to mislead Schneider, David tells the leutnant that he is a liaison between British MI5 and Belgian resistance. Schneider assigns David a job in the interrogation center where he eavesdrops on conversations between the leutnant and his Vichy clerk. From these conversations, David is able to deduce that Schneider ‘s lover, the clerk’s sister, is of Jewish descent.
During interrogation, the leutnant flaunts his familiarity with the partisans and asks David if he knows Nicole Serat. David counters by telling the leutnant that his lover, Elodie Devellier, is being watched by the partisans. Shocked at David’s knowledge but frightened over the threat he poses, Schneider is at last convinced the brash American is who he says he is. David warns him that if anything should happen to Nicole, her compatriots, or himself, Elodie might suffer reprisals.
The dispute over jurisdiction of Allied airmen centers on David. Fearing the Wehrmacht will execute his prisoner and endanger Elodie, Schneider agrees to a pact. David will write two letters. The first informs MI5 that Nicole has been discovered and should be removed from the country. In exchange, Schneider demands that surveillance of Elodie cease, a surveillance that has, in fact, never existed. The second letter, a concession to David, goes to Jesse.
Schneider drives to Abwehr headquarters to plead for custody of airmen downed in his sector. Wehrmacht officers discover his absence, surmise his plan, and stage an escape. David is taken from his cell, beaten and driven outside the compound to a stand of trees. In what he believes are his last moments, he remembers the choice Dancer made. He relinquishes control of his life and gains a peace he has never known.
Schneider arrives at the interrogation center minutes after the Wehrmacht officers leave. Realizing they are about to execute his prisoner, Schneider fears news of David’s death will reach the partisans before the letter reaches MI5 thus putting Elodie in danger. He races after the staff car arriving just as a Wehrmacht officer raises his pistol. Schneider assumes custody and David’s life is spared.
When the second letter arrives stateside, Jesse sees it for what it was meant to be, a final goodbye from his son. He wheels himself to the pens to be near the one thing closest to David. Without David, Dancer is certain to face the knife and a life of servitude. In a moment of epiphany, Jesse gains insight into the reason for the division between himself and his son. He opens the gate and releases the horse to roam the hills and enjoy the freedom Dancer once shared with David.
JESSE’S SEED is written for college-age adults. For many, this period marks the beginning of the dark night of the soul. It should be of some comfort to them to learn that others have experienced the disquieting confrontations with Nihilism and emerged with solid answers.
While at the university, I became acquainted with several instructors who were looking for novels with a spiritual bent that were written within the framework of the Southern literary tradition, novels with a style that would lend itself to formalistic analysis. Both JESSE’S SEED and A BED IN SHEOL fit these criteria, and both would be appropriate for use in that setting.
Though I had thought JESSE’S SEED would appeal primarily to men, a sampling of about one hundred readers seems to indicate that women respond quite positively to the book. Perhaps the most enthusiastic audience has been a group of clergy interested in mining the novel for relationship issues between fathers and sons.
Many college-age students will identify with David Dremmer’s academic aspirations, his love of the university, and his coming of age in that heady environment. But the book’s appeal will, I believe, be broader than that. As Anton Myrer discovered, children of the Greatest Generation are foremost among those pushing the resurgence of interest in World War II. Myrer wrote to and for his generation, the men and women who fought in Europe and the Pacific. He spoke for those too busy after the war and too committed to building lives for their families to speak for themselves. But his audience was, in fact, much larger. It encompassed both the children, the grandchildren and now the great grandchildren of those he offered voice. His inspiration reached the Robert Aldriches, the Stephen Spielbergs and now the Quentin Tarantinos. He offered a glimpse into a world in which courage, honor, and sacrifice were still recognized as virtues, and the echo of his tribute continues to resound.
Read first three chapters found at the end of this proposal.
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