Rifleman Dodd Summary

C. S. Forester

Rifleman Dodd

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Rifleman Dodd Summary

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Rifleman Dodd is a war narrative by award-winning English writer C.S. Forester. Forester wrote many novels with military and navel themes, and is perhaps most known for his Horatio Hornblower series. Some of his other works have been made into films, as well. Rifleman Dodd has an interesting place in literature as it was unavailable to the general public for quite some time. It has since been reprinted, and remains a must-read for many fans of Forester and/or military narratives.

The narrative follows the events surrounding a British rifleman who has been cut-off from his countrymen behind enemy lines. The story takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, also known as the Peninsular War. It is during this melee that Rifleman Dodd is cut off by the French advance into Portugal and must devise a plan of survival while continuing his duty as a rifleman. Behind enemy lines, Dodd attempts to stop the French advance as the British are pushed to their last line of defense, knowing full well that his chances of survival are slim, and that he will probably never be remembered for being a hero, let alone instrumental in fighting the French or helping to halt the French advancement.

Central to the narrative is that Dodd continues his duty as a soldier. He goes into hiding in the woods, where he stakes out the enemy’s positions, then carries out hit-and-run raids on French encampments. His tactics are successful, and in time, Dodd is reunited with his fellow soldiers near the end of the book. The narrative even goes on to show glimpses of Dodd later on in life, as an old man sitting by the fire and trying to remember his days as a soldier. He is depicted as an ornery old man who has taken to drinking, but the fact of the matter remains that, at least for the reader, Dodd’s indispensable role as a rifleman is very real, and helped turn the tide of war.

Forester’s style in this narrative, like many of his other works, is decidedly understated. Many critics have praised this approach to the events of the Napoleonic Wars as they relate to Dodd. This approach lends itself well to Dodd’s journey in the novel as a solo individual affecting change in the war. It also works well with the “glimpses” of other storylines near the end, such as Forester commenting that Sgt. Godinot (another plotline within the novel where Sgt. Godinot’s men are being captured and burned by the Portuguese guerilla fighters one by one) is being burned by guerilla soldiers somewhere in the hills that Dodd is looking at, or the glimpse into Dodd’s future as an old man near the fire.

Ultimately, Rifleman Dodd is a remarkable story of one man’s willingness to serve his country and carry out his duties despite the odds. Dodd knows he does not stand much of a chance against the French, especially being cut off from the rest of the British forces. Despite this overwhelming setback, he does not run, surrender or comes off as scared. Instead, he continues to do his duty by putting his training as a soldier to good use. Dodd’s tenacity and stolid character show just how important it is to remain faithful to commitments despite the possible outcomes.

Readers can take comfort in seeing a character who is faced with his own death still make the decision to stay the course. Dodd’s actions highlight how strength, mental agility and determination are just as important to winning battles as weapons and brute strength. In fact, strategy and resilience are powerful weapons. Dodd’s stance toward his circumstances shows strong mental fortitude as he stares death in the face yet continues what he set out to accomplish without giving up.