Question Of The Week: "The Great Escape"

by Conor Friedersdorf

A reader writes:

Without a doubt, the movie that has most shaped my life is The Great Escape (1963).  I view it not as a simple recounting of a Second World War prison escape, but as a larger parable for difficult times in one's life.

Through choice or circumstance, people find themselves forced to show up for unpleasant jobs; find themselves trapped in unpleasant circumstances.  What The Great Escape teaches me is that even when seemingly stripped of all resources, confined and repressed, it is not only possible but obligatory to resist, plan, improvise, and tunnel your way out.  Even escape from the camp does not guarantee success: for many, if not most, it can lead to failure, recapture, execution.  But it still remains a duty to make the escape attempt.  It doesn't hurt that it has a catchy main theme, either.  I listened to that plodding tuba and the rattle of the drums every night for three years in law school, every night before I took the bar, and I have returned to it again as my morning alarm while deployed as a judge advocate in support of Operation New Dawn.  Military life can be oppressive enough at times (though nowhere near the level faced by the real individuals represented in The Great Escape!).  Nevertheless, it's a constant reminder to me: however hard I think I have it, during the nights, I'm tunneling out.  I'm free.