William March (18 September 1893 – 15 May 1954), born William Edward Campbell, was an American soldier and author, most famous for his novels The Bad Seed and Company K. His innovative writing style is characterized by a deep compassion and understanding of suffering. A champion of the poor and disadvantaged, March often presents characters who, through no fault of their own, are victims of chance. He argues that true freedom is only obtained by being true to one's nature and humanity.
- The time comes in the life of each of us when we realize that death awaits us as it awaits others, that we will receive at the end neither preference nor exemption. It is then, in that disturbed moment, that we know life is an adventure with an ending, not a succession of bright days that go on forever. Sometimes the knowledge comes with the repudiation and quick revolt that such injustice awaits us, sometimes with fear that dries the mouth and closes the eyes for an instant, sometimes with servile weariness, an acquiescence more dreadful than fear. The knowledge that my own end was near came with pain, and afterwards astonishment, with the conventional heart attack, from which, I've been told, I've made an excellent recovery.
- Statement titled "Poor Pilgrim, Poor Stranger", found in the typewriter the morning of his death.
This Heavy Load (1931)
- ...man...is a frail, lost creature, too weak to walk unaided.
- You can always tell an old battlefield where many men have lost their lives. The next Spring the grass comes up greener and more luxuriant than on the surrounding countryside; the poppies are redder, the corn-flowers more blue. They grow over the field and down the sides of the shell holes and lean, almost touching, across the abandoned trenches in a mass of color that ripples all day in the direction that the wind blows. They take the pits and scars out of the torn land and make it a sweet, sloping surface again. Take a wood, now, or a ravine: In a year's time you could never guess the things which had taken place there.
I repeated my thoughts to my wife, but she said it was not difficult to understand about battlefields: The blood of the men killed on the field, and the bodies buried there, fertilize the ground and stimulate the growth of vegetation. That was all quite natural she said.
But I could not agree with this, too-simple, explanation: To me it has always seemed that God is so sickened with men, and their unending cruelty to each other, that he covers the places where they have been as quickly as possible.
- "Private Joseph Delaney"
- If the common soldiers of each army could just get together by a river bank and talk things over calmly, no war could possibly last as long as a week.
- "Private Plez Yancey"
- All we know is that life is sweet and that it does not last long. Why should people be envious of each other? Why do we hate each other? Why can't we live at peace in a world that is so beautiful and so wide?
- "Private Manuel Burt"
- I saw much during my thirty years as a professional soldier, and I have watched the reactions of many men to pain, hunger and death, but all I have learned is that no two men react alike, and that no one man comes through the experience unchanged. I have never ceased to wonder at the thing we call human nature, with its times of beauty and its times of filthiness, or at the level of calm stupidity that lies in between the two.
I have no theories and no remedies to offer.
- "Private Colin Urquhart"
The Tallons (1936)
- People are born in sorrow and move about the earth in patterns of sorrow without sense and without plan. Why should I take myself so seriously? I am no more important to the Creator than the trees or the vegetation which live with me on His earth. There is no eye to watch over me nor a hand to direct me, and there will be no preferred fate for me at the end, no matter what I am, or what I do with my life.
- In the sight of my beloved, I am like iron that the smith has heated at his furnace: iron whose surface gives heat. I am a bar that is rigid and will not bend.
The Looking-Glass (1943)
- Everybody must seem crazy if you see deep enough into their minds.
Quotes about March
- The most underrated of all contemporary American writers of fiction.
- The unrecognized genius of our time.
- His book has the force of a mob-protest; an outcry from anonymous throats. The wheel turns and turns and it does not matter, one hardly notices that the captain of the company, killed on page 159, is alive again a hundred pages later. It does not matter that every stock situation of the war, suicide, the murder of an officer, the slaughter of prisoners, a vision of Christ, is apportioned to Company K, because the book is not written in any realistic convention. It is the only War-book I have read which has found a new form to fit the novelty of the protest. The prose is bare, lucid, without literary echoes, not an imitation but a development of eighteenth-century prose.
- It's queer about this book — it suddenly made me wonder whether any other book about the War has been written in this country. It's a book of extra-ordinary courage — not the courage of hope but the quiet courage of despair. It will make patriots and romanticists angry — yet it is the kind of patriotism that is hardest and toughest. It ranks at once with the few great cries of protest. It is a selected, partial, bitter picture, but a picture we need. It will live. None of the acts of bravery for which the author was decorated during the War was as brave as this anthology of dismay.
- ...Far beyond the confines of a novel; at a single stroke he invented and perfected a new form. No man could write the gigantic story that lies behind Company K, but William March, by a brilliant refinement of form, has given us its essence and its broad sweep, flashes of its intensity and rich variety.