Restrained Response: American Novels of the Cold War and Korea, 1945-1962

By Arne Axelsson | Go to book overview

Introduction

The aim of this work is to provide an overview of American war and military novels set in the 1945-1962 period. In doing so, it attempts to estimate the literary qualifications of that body of work and to add to our understanding of the period by relating the view of time and circumstances in these works to the picture emerging from other historical sources. The underlying assumption is that what finally constitutes the value of American military novels of the early post- war period is neither that they represent a lasting contribution to the canon of great American literature, nor that they form a unique body of historical information--although they may sometimes do both. Our reward for studying these works is the clear delineation of a period. The extraordinary degree to which military and civilian experiences and viewpoints were confronted, mixed, and fused in the early postwar years characterizes this era as strongly as any trait. American military novels operate in the very center of this field and could contribute by functioning as a lens with a variable focus, equally capable of sharp close-ups of detail--highlighting particular features of time and background as well as human relations and individual development--and wide-angle displays that bring out the common characteristics of a period or an area. By training this lens on the first phase of American adaptation to the kind of non-decisive confrontation typical of the period between World War II and Vietnam, we might achieve a unique perspective on the American reaction of restraint and measured response to unprecedented demands

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