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Literature: Death to the French

Death to the French was written by C.S. Forrester in 1932. However, the novel is also known as Rifleman Dodd, after the main character of the novel. The novel is set in the Pennisular wars with allied forces fighting against the armies of Napoleon. The chief focus of the novel is on a member of 95th Foot Rifles Matthew Dodd, aka Rifleman Dodd.

British Rifleman Matthew Dodd gets left behind during an allied retreat during a battle while his unit retreats behind the lines of Torres Vedras. Dodd is cut off from rejoining his unit by advancing French skirmishers and the French Armies of Napoleon following close behind. Forced to flee into the hills away from his unit, Dodd is cut off and trapped behind enemy lines. The story focuses on Dodd's survival for several months separated from the army and his efforts to fight the French in a running guerrilla war with the aide of local guerrilla forces.

Its picture of the hero's resolution and devotion to duty in dangerous circumstances caused it to be put on the official reading list endorsed by the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps and other military bodies and groups.


This novel provides examples of:

  • The Duke of Wellington: The British general in charge of the war when Dodd gets separated.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Usually seen when Dodd uses his Baker rifle on the enemy characters.
  • La Résistance: Portuguese Guerrillas. Dodd joins up with locals to assault the French while trapped behind enemy lines.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte: The leader of the French forces who force the British retreat.
  • No One Left Behind: Subverted leading to Dodd's separation from his unit and subsequent adventures that result from him trying to rejoin them.
  • Shout-Out: In Sharpe's Escape (2004), one of Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe novels (which were partly inspired by Death to the French), a rifleman named Matthew Dodd is separated from Sharpe's company in a skirmish during the Peninsular Campaign in 1810. Word of God is that Cornwell has acknowledged on his Web site that this character is intended to be the same man depicted by Forester in Death to the French.
  • Silver Bullet: The French soldiers whom Dodd is facing mold silver bullets. They believe Dodd is a supernatural entity and can be defeated only with the use of silver bullets. In the book the bullets have better performance then the traditional lead ball ammo.
  • Tactical Withdrawal: The British are withdrawing to the lines of Torres Vedras. This results in Dodd being accidentally left behind to fend for himself.
  • Weapon of Choice: The Baker Rifle. The Rifle along with the green uniform is a highly visible weapon and symbol that separates a Rifleman from the common soldier armed with muskets.


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alternative title(s): Death To The French
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