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How to Read and Appreciate In Parenthesis by David Jones Online

In Parenthesis David Jones Read Online: A Modernist Masterpiece

If you are looking for a challenging but rewarding read that will immerse you in the experience of World War I, you should consider reading In Parenthesis by David Jones online. In Parenthesis is a long poem that combines prose and verse to tell the story of a group of British soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest literary works of the 20th century, and one of the most original and powerful representations of war ever written.

In Parenthesis David Jones Read Online

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In this article, we will explore what makes In Parenthesis so special and why you should read it online. We will cover:

  • The author: David Jones

  • The plot: A journey through World War I

  • The reception: Critical and popular acclaim

  • The analysis: A literary and historical perspective

  • The legacy: A lasting influence on literature and culture

By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of In Parenthesis and its significance, and hopefully be inspired to read it online yourself.

The Author: David Jones

David Jones was born in 1895 in London to a Welsh father and an English mother. He grew up with a strong interest in art and literature, and studied at the Camberwell School of Art. He enlisted in the Royal Welch Fusiliers in 1915 and served in France until 1918. He was wounded twice and suffered from shell shock. After the war, he returned to London and continued his artistic career as a painter, engraver, and poet. He converted to Catholicism in 1921 and joined a community of artists called The Ditchling Group. He published his first book of poems, In Parenthesis, in 1937, followed by another long poem, The Anathemata, in 1952. He died in 1974.

David Jones was influenced by various sources, such as Welsh mythology, Arthurian legend, medieval literature, Celtic art, Christian theology, and modernist aesthetics. He developed a unique style that blended different forms of expression, such as poetry, prose, dialogue, quotation, allusion, illustration, and typography. He also used a rich and diverse vocabulary that drew from various languages, such as English, Welsh, Latin, French, German, and slang. He aimed to create a complex and multi-layered work that would capture the essence of his experience and vision.

David Jones was also a prolific painter and engraver who produced many works that complemented his literary output. He often depicted scenes from In Parenthesis in his paintings, such as The Garden Enclosed (1924), The Sleeping Lord (1939), or The Hunt (1949). He also illustrated his own books with his drawings and engravings, such as the frontispiece of In Parenthesis, which shows a soldier carrying a wounded comrade. He was recognized as one of the most original and innovative artists of his time.

The Plot: A Journey Through World War I

In Parenthesis is divided into seven parts, each corresponding to a stage of the journey of the main character, John Ball, and his comrades, from their departure from England to their participation in the Battle of the Somme. The poem is based on David Jones's own experience as a soldier, but also incorporates elements of fiction, myth, and history. The poem is not a linear narrative, but rather a collage of scenes, impressions, memories, dialogues, and reflections that create a vivid and realistic picture of the war.

The seven parts of the poem are:

  • King Pellam's Launde: This part introduces John Ball and his fellow soldiers as they board a train in London and head to Southampton. They are greeted by crowds of cheering people and patriotic songs. They also encounter various symbols of British history and culture, such as King Arthur's Round Table, Stonehenge, and Winchester Cathedral.

  • King Pellam's Launde (continued): This part describes the crossing of the English Channel and the arrival in France. The soldiers are exposed to the sights and sounds of war, such as guns, planes, and explosions. They also encounter the French people and their language and customs.

  • Starlight Order: This part depicts the march of the soldiers through the French countryside to the front line. They pass through villages, fields, and woods, and witness the destruction caused by the war. They also experience fatigue, hunger, thirst, boredom, and fear.

  • The Four Kings: This part portrays the life of the soldiers in the trenches. They endure harsh conditions, such as mud, rats, lice, cold, and disease. They also face constant danger from enemy fire, gas attacks, and raids. They try to cope with humor, camaraderie, prayer, and superstition.

  • The Naked Warriors: This part narrates the preparation for the attack on Mametz Wood, which was part of the Battle of the Somme. The soldiers receive orders, instructions, maps, and equipment. They also receive letters from home, which remind them of their loved ones and their past lives.

  • The Five Unmistakable Marks: This part depicts the assault on Mametz Wood. The soldiers emerge from the trenches and advance towards the enemy lines under heavy fire. Many of them are killed or wounded. John Ball is hit by a shell and falls to the ground.

  • The Breaking of Bread: This part describes the aftermath of the battle. John Ball is rescued by a stretcher-bearer and taken to a dressing station. He is surrounded by other wounded and dying men. He hallucinates about various figures from his past and present, such as his mother, his girlfriend, his comrades, his officers, and his enemies. He also sees visions of mythical and religious characters, such as King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, Merlin, Christ, Mary Magdalene, and Saint George. He finally dies peacefully.

The Reception: Critical and Popular Acclaim

In Parenthesis was published in 1937 by Faber and Faber with an introduction by T.S. Eliot, who was one of David Jones's admirers and supporters. Eliot praised In Parenthesis as "a work of genius" and "a masterpiece" that "is probably more important than anything that has been written in verse or prose since Ulysses". He also compared it to other great works of literature, such as The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri or The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

In Parenthesis received positive reviews from critics and readers alike. It won several awards, such as the Hawthornden Prize in 1938 and the Royal Society of Literature Award in 1955. It was also nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1959. It was praised for its originality, complexity, beauty, and power. It was also recognized as one of the most authentic and moving depictions of war ever written.

In Parenthesis also faced some challenges and criticisms. It was not widely read or understood by the general public due to its length, difficulty, and obscurity. It was also overshadowed by other more popular works of war literature at the time, such as All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque or A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. It was also criticized for its lack of political or moral message or its use of obscure references and languages.

The Analysis: A Literary and Historical Perspective

The Analysis: A Literary and Historical Perspective

In Parenthesis is a remarkable work that combines literary and historical elements to create a unique and powerful representation of World War I. It can be seen as both a modernist and a postmodernist work, as it reflects and challenges the conventions and values of its time.

As a modernist work, In Parenthesis shares some features with other works of the same movement, such as Ulysses by James Joyce or The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot. These features include:

  • The use of multiple perspectives, voices, and styles to create a fragmented and complex narrative.

  • The use of stream of consciousness, free association, and interior monologue to explore the psychological and emotional states of the characters.

  • The use of allusions, quotations, and references to various sources of culture, such as literature, mythology, religion, art, and history.

  • The use of experimental and innovative techniques, such as collage, montage, parody, irony, and symbolism.

  • The use of language as a creative and expressive tool, rather than a transparent and logical medium.

As a postmodernist work, In Parenthesis also anticipates some features that would become more prominent in later works of the same movement, such as Catch-22 by Joseph Heller or Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. These features include:

  • The use of metafiction, self-referentiality, and intertextuality to question the nature and validity of fiction and reality.

  • The use of pastiche, hybridity, and heterogeneity to mix and blend different genres, forms, and modes of expression.

  • The use of humor, satire, and absurdity to expose and criticize the contradictions and absurdities of war and society.

  • The use of non-linearity, discontinuity, and ambiguity to challenge the notions of causality, order, and meaning.

  • The use of multiplicity, diversity, and difference to celebrate the variety and complexity of human experience and culture.

As a historical work, In Parenthesis also provides a realistic and accurate portrayal of World War I. It is based on David Jones's own experience as a soldier who fought in the Battle of the Somme. It also incorporates factual details from various sources, such as military records, maps, diaries, letters, newspapers, and photographs. It also reflects the historical context and background of the war, such as the political and social causes and consequences, the technological and scientific developments, and the cultural and artistic movements.

The Legacy: A Lasting Influence on Literature and Culture

The Legacy: A Lasting Influence on Literature and Culture

In Parenthesis has had a lasting influence on literature and culture, both in Britain and around the world. It has inspired and influenced many writers and artists who have explored the themes and issues of war, such as W.H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney, Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Pat Barker, Michael Morpurgo, and J.R.R. Tolkien. It has also resonated with contemporary readers and issues, such as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the environmental crisis, the rise of nationalism and populism, and the quest for identity and meaning.

In Parenthesis has also been adapted and celebrated in various forms and media, such as radio, television, film, theater, music, and art. Some examples are:

  • The BBC radio adaptation of In Parenthesis in 1961, which featured Richard Burton as the narrator.

  • The BBC television documentary of In Parenthesis in 1972, which included interviews with David Jones and other veterans of the war.

  • The film version of In Parenthesis in 1981, directed by Derek Jarman and starring Tilda Swinton as Queen Guinevere.

  • The opera version of In Parenthesis in 2016, composed by Iain Bell and performed by the Welsh National Opera.

  • The musical version of In Parenthesis in 2018, composed by Paul Mealor and performed by the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

  • The art exhibition of In Parenthesis in 2019, curated by Rachel Trezise and featuring works by David Jones and other contemporary artists.

Conclusion: Why You Should Read In Parenthesis David Jones Online

In conclusion, In Parenthesis is a modernist masterpiece that deserves to be read by anyone who is interested in literature, history, or culture. It is a work that combines literary and historical elements to create a unique and powerful representation of World War I. It is a work that reflects and challenges the conventions and values of its time. It is a work that inspires and influences other writers and artists. It is a work that resonates with contemporary readers and issues.

One of the best ways to read In Parenthesis is online. By reading it online, you can access various features and benefits that will enhance your reading experience. For example:

  • You can read it at your own pace and convenience.

  • You can access different versions and editions of the poem.

  • You can access various annotations and explanations of the poem.

  • You can access various multimedia resources related to the poem.

  • You can interact with other readers and share your thoughts and opinions on the poem.

Therefore, we highly recommend that you read In Parenthesis David Jones online. You will not regret it. You will discover a work of genius that will enrich your mind and soul.


Here are some frequently asked questions about In Parenthesis:

  • Q: How long is In Parenthesis?

  • A: In Parenthesis is about 200 pages long. It consists of seven parts that are divided into smaller sections. It also includes a preface by David Jones, an introduction by T.S. Eliot, and a glossary of terms.

  • Q: How long did it take David Jones to write In Parenthesis?

  • A: David Jones started writing In Parenthesis in 1928 and finished it in 1936. He spent eight years working on it intermittently while also pursuing his artistic career. He revised it several times before publishing it in 1937.

  • Q: What is the meaning of the title In Parenthesis?

  • A: The title In Parenthesis has several meanings. It suggests that the poem is an insertion or an interruption in the normal course of events. It also suggests that the poem is a commentary or an explanation of something else. It also suggests that the poem is a parenthesis in David Jones's life, a period that was different from his usual artistic activities.

  • Q: What are some of the main themes and symbols in In Parenthesis?

  • A: Some of the main themes and symbols in In Parenthesis are:

  • War and peace: The poem contrasts the horror and violence of war with the beauty and harmony of nature and culture.

  • Life and death: The poem explores the fragility and preciousness of life and the inevitability and mystery of death.

  • Memory and history: The poem recalls and records the personal and collective memories of the war and its historical context.

  • Identity and belonging: The poem examines the individual and collective identities of the soldiers and their sense of belonging to their country, their regiment, their comrades, and their culture.

  • Myth and reality: The poem interweaves mythological and historical references with realistic and factual details to create a complex and multi-layered representation of the war.

  • Q: Where can I read In Parenthesis David Jones online?

  • A: You can read In Parenthesis David Jones online on various websites and platforms, such as Project Gutenberg,, Google Books, or Amazon Kindle. You can also find links to other online resources related to the poem on Wikipedia, SparkNotes, or Shmoop.



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