King Rat Short Essay - Answer Key

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1. Who is the Provost Marshal and what is he doing at the opening of Chapter 1.

Chapter 1 opens with Lt. Grey, the camp Provost Marshal again summoning into the POW shack the King as he passes, to shake him down and check the inventory of his possessions. Grey is determined to catch him with something illegal and send him to the Utram Road jail, ghastly even by the standards of the Changi camp.

2. Describe Lt. Grey.

Provost Marshal of the Changi POW camp, Lt. Grey is the novel's great antagonist, living only to put into the dreaded Utram Road jail the protagonist Peter Marlowe and the American corporal known as The King. Grey is usually tight-lipped and unapproachable, but the King makes his blood boil, and when Marlowe allies with the King, the wrath spills over onto Marlowe. Grey is sick with malaria for most of the novel, and sometimes near death, but he forces himself to live in order to get vengeance. Because Grey is a person of habit, evading him is easy. Grey has been promoted from the ranks, an accomplishment over which he gloats, but he wants badly to retain his rank after the war in the Regular Army. At 24 (but seeming much older), Grey is bitter that he has not been promoted higher. Grey had been ordered to the Caucasus in 1942 but is shipped to Singapore and imprisoned. He has many if-onlys in his life, which he suppresses. He is not religious but finds using Bible paper to roll cigarettes blasphemous--but does so anyway, reading the text first. He is reduced to wearing patched short pants, wooden clogs, and a moldy Tank Corps beret.

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