The General (1926)

Brief Intro

“The General” is a silent film directed by Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman, released in 1926. This classic comedy-action film is set during the American Civil War and follows the adventures of Johnnie Gray, played by Keaton, as he attempts to rescue his beloved locomotive, “The General,” along with his love interest Annabelle Lee. The movie is renowned for its physical comedy, elaborate stunts, and innovative use of cinematic techniques.

Literary Devices Used in The General


Movie SceneDevice Example
Johnnie’s rejection from the armySituational Irony: Expected to be a hero but is deemed more valuable as an engineer.
Johnnie’s solo chase to save “The General”Dramatic Irony: Audience knows Johnnie’s plan while other characters remain unaware.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The General (the train)Represents Johnnie’s dedication and love.
Annabelle’s presence on the trainSymbolizes the intertwining of love and duty.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Johnnie’s exaggerated stunts on the trainExtreme physical comedy to enhance humor.
The chaotic battle scenesAmplified chaos to highlight Johnnie’s bravery.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Johnnie’s initial rejectionHints at his later heroism and resourcefulness.
Early scenes with the trainSets up the importance of “The General” for the plot.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Johnnie’s perseveranceThe unstoppable force of a moving train.
The train’s journeyMetaphor for Johnnie’s relentless pursuit.


Movie SceneDevice Example
References to the Civil WarHistorical context as a backdrop for the plot.
Johnnie’s heroismAlludes to classical hero journeys and epic tales.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Johnnie’s awkward handling of military tasksContrasts with his expert engineering skills.
The failed cannon firingHighlights Johnnie’s luck and wit.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Peaceful train journey vs. sudden conflictHighlights the unpredictability of war.
Johnnie’s comedic actions vs. serious war scenesEmphasizes the absurdity of his situation.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Mocking military bureaucracyCritiques inefficiencies in wartime decisions.
Over-the-top Southern chivalryPokes fun at cultural stereotypes.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Johnnie’s repeated attempts to enlistEmphasizes his determination.
Recurring train chase sequencesBuilds tension and highlights persistence.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Johnnie Gray

IronyHis rejection by the army sets him up as an unlikely hero.
SymbolismThe General (train) represents his dedication and engineering prowess.
HyperboleExaggerated physical stunts showcase his bravery and comedic nature.

Annabelle Lee

SymbolismRepresents love and motivation for Johnnie.
IronyHer helplessness contrasts with Johnnie’s resourcefulness.
MetaphorHer presence on the train symbolizes Johnnie’s intertwining responsibilities.

Character Dynamics

JuxtapositionJohnnie’s comedic actions against serious war backdrop highlight his bravery.
SatireRelationship dynamics mock societal norms and chivalry.
ForeshadowingEarly interactions hint at character development and evolving relationships.

Thematic Analysis

Courage and Determination

MetaphorJohnnie’s journey as a train represents relentless pursuit and bravery.
IronyHis initial rejection foreshadows his eventual heroism.

Love and Loyalty

SymbolismThe General (train) and Annabelle represent intertwined personal and professional duty.
HyperboleExaggerated actions to save Annabelle show deep commitment.

War and Conflict

SatireMocking military bureaucracy highlights absurdities in war.
JuxtapositionPeaceful moments contrasted with sudden chaos to underscore unpredictability.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
IronyVisual ComedyPhysical stunts and visual gags emphasize unexpected outcomes.
SymbolismSet DesignThe detailed train set represents the era and importance of “The General.”
HyperboleStunt ChoreographyOver-the-top stunts highlight Johnnie’s bravery and comedic elements.
ForeshadowingEditingEarly scenes subtly hint at future plot points.
MetaphorCamera AnglesUse of wide shots to depict the vastness of Johnnie’s challenges.

Key Scene Analysis

Scene Selection

  1. Johnnie’s Rejection from the Army
  2. The Train Chase Sequence
    • YouTube Link
    • Breakdown: A blend of hyperbole, visual comedy, and dynamic editing creates tension and humor, showcasing Johnnie’s resourcefulness and determination.
  3. Rescue of Annabelle Lee
    • YouTube Link
    • Breakdown: Symbolism and metaphor are heavily employed as Johnnie’s personal and professional missions converge, highlighting his love and loyalty.


Interactive Multiple Choice Quiz:

  1. What literary device is prominently used when Johnnie is rejected by the army?
  2. Which scene best showcases the use of hyperbole?
    • A) Johnnie’s rejection
    • B) Train chase sequence
    • C) Annabelle’s rescue
    • D) Early train scenes
  3. How is symbolism used in “The General”?
    • A) To represent historical accuracy
    • B) To depict Johnnie’s courage
    • C) Through the train “The General”
    • D) To highlight the absurdity of war

(Answers: 1-B, 2-B, 3-C)