Axis/Axes to Grind studies various political themes in American World War II novels of three decades. These themes include “big picture” novels that interpret the war’s meaning and predict the postwar political climate (The Naked and the Dead, The Young Lions) and novels that dramatize rebellions against military authority (From Here to Eternity, The Caine Mutiny and Catch-22). “Political” also includes conflicts between various minorities and the dominant socio-political culture (White, Christian and heterosexual). Racial conflicts appear in If He Hollers Let Him Go, And Then We Heard the Thunder and Guard of Honor); subversive gay themes inform The Gallery; anti-Semitic conflicts appear in several novels, particularly the Holocaust novel Point of No Return.
War novels written well after the war tend to
see the war through the lens of the author's own times. Thus, the 1960s protests
against the Vietnam war inform the pacifism in Slaughterhouse-Five. And in Gravity's Rainbow, the transnational
cartels that enable the V-2 rocket attacks against England prefigure the
military-industrial complex of Pynchon's time.
A study of political themes in American World War II novels from 1945 to 1975.
•While other scholarly books have examined the treatment of one particular minority, e.g., Leah Garrett’s Young Lions: How Jewish Authors Reinvented the American War Novel, none have dealt with the treatment of as many minorities as mine. •Besides dealing with well-known authors and WWII novels—Mailer, Jones, Wouk, Heller, Vonnegut—my book will bring to light some deserving, but neglected war novelists—Martha Gellhorn, Chester Himes, and John Oliver Killens—as well as a few novelists whose star has faded: John Horne Burns and James Gould Cozzens. And it considers a novel that many scholars mention but few have read all the way through: Gravity’s Rainbow. •My book will call attention to a much-neglected genre, the war novel, and particularly the subgenre, the American World War II novel.