If Michael is in the Navy, why is he called private and why is there a general? Very good question. I suppose my little scheme didn’t work as well as I hoped. There are two answers. First, my own.
As told in the book, Michael has bounced around, so to speak, between varies countries and various military groups and fought in many wars and conflicts. Perhaps it should have been more clear that in his own mind, it all blends together. To him, one is the same as the next. By having both types mentioned (group and terminology) it’s supposed to represent his eternal amalgamation of it all. As for why his superior officer uses the “wrong” terminology, Michael’s been bleary-eyed, overtired from staring at the blip on a screen, as well as sinking into his own thoughts, haunted by them. Michael’s not hearing properly.
The second reason, as might be guessed, is meant to be an allusion to Barrie. When giving us information about Captain Jas. Hook, he never quite delivers a straight answer as to the whole. What I mean is, whenever one thinks information is pinned down, it pops undone by another. Not that it’s contradictory. It just doesn’t all fit, giving you the feeling that you’re missing a major piece of the puzzle. For example, Barrie tells us Hook was not his true name. To reveal who he really was would even at this date set the country in a blaze; but as those who read between the lines must already have guessed, he had been at a famous public school; and its traditions still clung to him like garments, with which indeed they are largely concerned. Okay, then who is he? Take all the other evidence/facts from Barrie and real history and there’s a pretty good candidate. Here’s the thing: Who I’m thinking of did not have a formal education. And there is no doubt that Hook attended Eton. Thus, I wanted to give a sense of “not-fitting” mystery to Michael as well.
I liked the idea of coupling the “non-fit” with the above, so that he himself feels awkward and “out of place” in the world.
Sorry for not making it more clear in the actual text.