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"The Hessian" by Howard Fast

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This one seems always to be on the summer reading list in high school. That could be because of its relatively shallow consideration of moral issues surrounding combatants in a war, and what they mean for people's lives.

During the American Revolution a young, addle-brained colonial boy brays obnoxiously at a Hessian detachment, which somewhat petutlantly arrests him, and eventually hangs him. Seemingly in return, a young Hessian soldier is taken prisoner after being hidden by a local family (I forget his transgression - sorry), given a cursory military trial, and hanged. Neither hanging is justified, except to the respective sides.

The story poses a full slate of moral and legal conundrums: what level of proof is needed to prove espionage during wartime?; when is a wartime combatant guilty of murder?; are life-or-death matters, when decided by human beings under pressure of war, conducive to justice?

This is a spare story; there is not a lot of background information on our main characters. I was left wishing for more.
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Abdelghafour

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