The friendship between Alec and Jerry is the central relationship in the novel.

The flashback narrative is framed - at the beginning and the end - by the present tense voice of Alec as he awaits execution for the shooting of his friend.

The strength of the men’s bond is shown when Alec puts an end to Jerry's suffering, preventing a brutal and undignified death by firing squad.

In doing this he makes the ultimate sacrifice and shows he is willing to die for his friend.

As a result of his family circumstances and the fact that he does not go to school, Alec is a lonely child until he meets Jerry. His friendship with Jerry is therefore all important in his life.

They immediately have a lot in common - despite their difference in class - because of their shared passion for horses.

The time spent with Jerry swimming in the lake and talking is the happiest we see Alec.


The joy in Alec’s narration when he is with Jerry is shown through the imagery used in his poetic descriptions of nature.

Having a friend is such a new and exciting experience for him - in his memories “it all seems idyllic".

Johnston’s use of short emphatic sentences - “I had a friend. A private and secret friend” - show Alec’s joyful awe at having a confidant all to himself for the first time in his life.

Alec remains loyal to Jerry despite his mother’s attempts to break their bond.


When Alicia derides Jerry as one of “those sort of people” Alec defends his friend saying, “Jerry’s not stupid and he’s not a criminal”.

Their bond also survives the disapproval of Major Glendinning when they sign up to go to war.

Although Alec becomes an officer, their friendship still continues. Alec invites Jerry horse riding with Bennett as he knows how much Jerry loves horses.

He saves him rum, a constant source of warmth and comfort for the men in cold trench conditions. He tells him to “Finish it. It’s all for you”.


Alec also asks Glendinning if Jerry can have compassionate leave to search for his father. He then keeps quiet when he notices that Jerry has gone absent without leave.

There are poignant scenes of affection when Jerry comes to Alec’s room on his return, and then an unexpected shock to the reader when Alec shoots his friend.

These are reminiscent of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men in the portrayal of friendship between two men. Their inevitably unattainable dream of owning a stud farm together is also echoed in the novel.

Of Mice and Men is on the GCSE specification and there is information about it on BBC Bitesize. It would be a good idea study the novel to see the parallels with How Many Miles to Babylon?.