Both The Tin Pot Foreign General and the Iron Woman and When the Wind Blows use a number of different devices to convey their serious message. These strategies are used in such a way so that they fit in with the children’s book genre and therefore the books are not simply dull moral messages. The characters in The Tin Pot Foreign General and the Iron Woman are, as the title suggests, not actually human beings. Their actions, similarly, show them incapable of human emotions.
Through these large metal monsters Briggs caricatures not just Margaret Thatcher and General Galtieri, but politicians in general. They are displayed as uncaring people who do not deserve to occupy real human bodies. The authorities’ lack of human compassion is also suggested in When the Wind Blows; “The Government” in which James has such faith is never seen, merely heard on the radio. The people in the government are not given names and by the end of the video their failings to James and the rest of the country are extremely clear.
However, the main characters in When the Wind Blows are real and their authenticity increases as the film goes on. The faces of James and Hilda are deliberately normal and ordinary making it possible for the viewer to identify them as someone they know. This elderly couple endear themselves to the viewer as the film continues and their defects, such as their naivety, also bring them to life. Hilda’s preoccupation with cleaning is just one of the stereotypes of their generation that the characters portray. Another illustration can be found in the sexist comments that James keeps unwittingly making; “I’ve got spots and I’m a man.”
Although most of The Tin Pot Foreign General and the Iron Woman features the two bright and repulsive politicians, there is a section in the middle of the book, which consists of black, sketchy charcoal drawings of the real people who died in the battles. The black pictures present this sad message of human beings who died for a cause that they had no interest in. These pictures come as a great shock after the garish metal monsters that are the two characters in authority. When the Wind Blows also contains a similar switch to simpler sepia sketches showing the bomb’s devastating effect. These sepia images gradually become darker until they are red.
The actual white out of the nuclear explosion in When the Wind Blows lasts only a second but it is extremely effective at exposing how violent nuclear explosions are. A real video clip of a nuclear explosion is then shown. After the explosion the characters and scenery gradually pale as the bomb’s effects hit them. The last dark images that we see contrast greatly with the idyllic watercolours found at the very beginning of the video.
The sound effects that can be heard in When the Wind Blows are surprisingly realistic, for example, the clinking of the tea set. This does much to develop and enliven the piece from merely a children’s cartoon strip to a more serious story containing real characters. As in many films ominous music is used at some points to illustrate the difficulties that are either happening or about to happen. In When the Wind Blows military music is played when the video clips of nuclear weapons are shown. Another tune in this film is the nursery rhyme “Rock-a-bye-Baby” and the sinister idea at the end of it fits in eerily with the issues raised in the film. Loud noises feature greatly in The Tin Pot Foreign General and the Iron Woman. These noises are repeated to emphasise their volume and effect; “BANG! BANG! BANG!” is far more emotive than “bang”.
Both works use dialogue to help create the right moods. The Iron Woman does not just “claim” the island but “bagsies” it: a word that is well suited to the vocabulary of the child reader and also highlights the irrationality of this war. The translation of the speech of the Tin Pot Foreign General increases the enjoyment of the child reader as well. Other devices are also employed to mould the book for children. The story begins “Once upon a time…” and there are repeated words, “they had mutton for breakfast, mutton for lunch and mutton for dinner.” Puns are used but sparingly; the Iron Woman “opens her great chest”.
Dialogue in When the Wind Blows is important in enriching the characters and in creating the right tone for the piece. James refers to his wife Hilda affectionately as “Ducks” which demonstrates the great love between them. Therefore, when James, in a fit of impatience, calls Hilda “Bitch!” the effect is even more shocking. The two characters are constantly using clichï¿½s in their normal speech, some examples are; “you are what you eat”, “survival of the fittest” and “Look on the bright side”. James and Hilda’s speech also highlights their naivety; James uses words in the wrong context, which, although initially funny, is also moving.
James believes that “commuters” control the world and pities his wife for her “Various Veins”. The couple also expect the war to be just like World War Two and expect their bodies to react differently to a nuclear blast than those of the Japanese. Emotions are relayed to the reader through the dialogue and a particularly poignant part of the film is when Hilda describes the air as smelling “like roast dinner”. After the bomb the characters became less longwinded and there were more lulls in their conversation.
The plots of The Tin Pot Foreign General and the Iron Woman and also When the Wind Blows are both relatively simple with clear beginnings, turning points and ends. These stages are accentuated by changes in dialogue, sounds, graphics, and in the characters themselves. The action in When the Wind Blows takes quite a while to actually occur but the whole first section before the bomb is building up to the moment of the bomb.
There was a clear change in the mood of the story after the bomb’s explosion and this disaster also highlighted the naivety of the characters and their dependence on being able to just “pop down to Willis'”. As the characters became ill it showed how no one could overcome the effects of the bomb and the development of their illnesses was subtly done so as to exact as much emotion from the viewer as possible. The turning point of The Tin Pot General and the Iron Woman was the interruption of the charcoal drawings that changed the piece entirely.
The ends of the two works by Raymond Briggs are both sad and feature the real people of the story. At the end of When the Wind Blows we are left with James and Hilda dying as the screen fades to black. Their deaths are symbolised by clouds blowing in the wind as the sun comes through. I think that this shows that, although this couple and their community have been wiped out, life is still continuing in other places. The final pages of The Tin Pot Foreign General and the Iron Woman are based on historical facts. Wounded soldiers would have sat and watched the parade on television as Margaret Thatcher banned them from taking part in the parade. This last image is a pencil sketch as it is portraying the real victims of the war but what makes it even more poignant is the bright, tiny figure that is the victorious Margaret Thatcher on the television screen.
Although the two pieces deal with entirely different matters (The Falkland’s War and nuclear war in general) some devices to present the piece in the children’s genre are used in both books. The morals are similar, despite stemming from different world issues, both condemning people in authority whether they are actual, named leaders (as in The Tin Pot Foreign General and the Iron Woman) or merely representations of authorities in general.