The three layers of plotline dramatize an accurate microcosm of American life during a pivotal time period. PRIDE explores in its pre-war first part Garfield's lower-class, working-man roots as only he could portray urban struggles and dreams during the Great Depression. The harrowing middle portion, claustrophobically confined to a cramped and stinking Pacific island foxhole (shared with Dane Clark and Anthony Caruso to form a 3-man machine gun team), graphically captures the fears and horrors of war as few films have.
But it is this citizen/soldier's readjustment in the final sequences, aided by compassionate nurse Rosemary deCamp and home-town fiancee Eleanor Parker (in a performance worthy of a Supporting Oscar nomination) that really packs an emotional wallop. Doubting his self-worth, lost in a sightless world (his post-operative cry of "Why don't God strike me dead!" is chilling), and struggling to comprehend the difference between love and pity, Garfield's perfectly modulated performance combines all the elements of his unique persona (rebellious icon, tough guy, romantic leading man, idealistic spokesman).
Given his devotion throughout the war years to the Hollywood Canteen that he and Bette Davis created, the story must have been very close to his heart. This may be his finest screen role in a career filled with meaningful performances.