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Male Armor

Male Armor: The Soldier-Hero in Contemporary American Culture

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Male Armor
    Book Description:

    There is no shortage of iconic masculine imagery of the soldier in American film and literature-one only has to think of George C. Scott as Patton in front of a giant American flag, Sylvester Stallone as Rambo, or Burt Lancaster rolling around in the surf in From Here to Eternity. InMale Armor, Jon Robert Adams examines the ways in which novels, plays, and films about America's late-twentieth-century wars reflect altering perceptions of masculinity in the culture at large. He highlights the gap between the cultural conception of masculinity and the individual experience of it, and exposes the myth of war as an experience that verifies manhood.

    Drawing on a wide range of work, from the war novels of Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, James Jones, and Joseph Heller to David Rabe's playStreamersand Anthony Swofford'sJarhead,Adams examines the evolving image of the soldier from World War I to Operation Desert Storm. In discussing these changing perceptions of masculinity, he reveals how works about war in the late twentieth century attempt to eradicate inconsistencies among American civilian conceptions of war, the military's expectations of the soldier, and the soldier's experience of combat. Adams argues that these inconsistencies are largely responsible not only for continuing support of the war enterprise but also for the soldiers' difficulty in reintegration to civilian society upon their return. He intendsMale Armorto provide a corrective to the public's continued investment in the war enterprise as a guarantor both of masculinity and, by extension, of the nation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3397-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. 1-24)

    Marilyn Wesley suggests that the best American war literature serves as an intermediary between the event that inspires the violent depictions and cultural assumptions about that event.Male Armorintends to show another way that representations of American wars function as an intermediary, in this case between the male soldier’s experience of war and civilian beliefs about his masculinity. This book investigates the bifurcation and persistent tension between American conceptions of masculinity and the soldierly experience of war as evident in literary, dramatic, filmic, and nonfiction portrayals of the United States’ late twentieth-century conflicts. The project focuses specifically on war...

  5. CHAPTER 1 “THE GREAT GENERAL WAS A HAS-BEEN”: The World War II Hero in 1950s Conformist Culture
    (pp. 25-61)

    In his 1952 novella,The Old Man and the Sea,Ernest Hemingway introduced his American reading audience to the termsalao,which means the “worst form of unlucky” (9). Hemingway attributes the term to his protagonist, Santiago, and describes him as “thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck” (9). “Many of the fisherman” who reside in Santiago’s village “made fun” of him, but “he was not angry” (11). Santiago and Manolin, the village boy who befriends him, construct fictions to ease their daily labor for food. They talk of a net they no longer own,...

  6. CHAPTER 2 THE BRIDGE TO VIETNAM: The War Story and AWOL Masculinity
    (pp. 62-70)

    Because of its relatively late appearance (1961), nonlinear narrative style, and dubious representation of historical fact and chronology, critics have been hard-pressed to refer to Joseph Heller’sCatch-22as a World War II novel, and the book’s repeated references to exigencies of Cold War America do not help clarify matters. David Seed indicates that “the constant references to conspiracy relate the novel to postwar America” and points out that “Heller inserts references to IBM machines, helicopters and the political developments in America of the 1950s” (68). Because of these details Seed claims that “the reader can neither naturalise the setting...

  7. CHAPTER 3 ENVELOPE, PLEASE: The Metonymic Male
    (pp. 71-96)

    At one point inDispatches,Michael Herr’s memoir of the years he spent in Vietnam as a correspondent forEsquiremagazine, Herr callsCatch-22“a Nam standard because it said that in a war everybody thinks that everybody else is crazy” (210). WhileCatch-22repeatedly features the idea that war makes everyone crazy, Herr’s summation glosses a number of other reasons forCatch-22’s status as a “Nam standard,” including its fragmented, chaotic narration; its portrayal of the absolute inanity of organizational structures like the military or capitalism; its depiction of the careerism of military leaders and their near-total disconnection from...

  8. CHAPTER 4 WINNING THIS TIME: The War That Wasn’t
    (pp. 97-124)

    InThe Great War and Modern MemoryPaul Fussell connects the process of “training in military maneuver and technique” with the structure of the “paradigm” war memoir. Fussell claims that both follow a three-step development: “first, preparation; then execution; and finally, critique” (130). The narrative elements shared by the training procedure and the chronological reconstruction of war experience—their respective beginnings, middles, and ends—allow Fussell to make his comparison in the first place. Likewise, inThe Body in PainElaine Scarry describes “the essential structure of war” as comprised of narrative elements. This “structure,” she writes, “resides in the...

    (pp. 125-132)

    The concordance function at reveals that the three most frequently recurring words in Anthony Swofford’sJarhead(2003) are “marines,” “know,” and “war.” The idea these words instantiate must emerge—if not directly, at least unwittingly or subconsciously—for readers of Swofford’s text. One can imagine that as William E. Broyles set out to adapt the memoir for Sam Mendes’s filmJarhead(2005), he tried to capture its essence, knowing full well the impossibility of a direct word-to-image transference. The marines who people Swofford’sJarheaddo know war; they possess the attribute traditionally deemed most necessary to talk about war:...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 133-142)
    (pp. 143-152)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 153-160)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 161-162)