Axis/Axes to Grind
Political Slants in American World War II Novels, 1945–1975
Milton A. Cohen
Axis/Axes to Grind studies various types of political themes in American World War II novels of three decades. “Political,” which is essentially about power and control, includes interpreting the meaning of the war and predicting the political climate of post-war America (The Naked and the Dead, The Young Lions); exploring the dynamics of individual and group rebellions against military authority (From Here to Eternity, The Caine Mutiny, Catch-22); and tracing conflicts between various minorities and the dominant socio-political ethos of military authority.
These conflicts can occur among enlisted men (The Young Lions, From Here to Eternity) but more often between military policies, such as racial segregation and minorities (And Then We Heard the Thunder, Guard of Honor, The Gallery). The locales of these conflicts are also various: on board a ship during a typhoon, at an Army Air Force–training base, even in a war industry (If He Hollers, Let Him Go). War novels written well after the war tend to see the war through the lens of the author’s own times. Thus, Slaughterhouse-Five is as much about anti-war protests during the Vietnam war as it is about the firebombing of Dresden. And in Gravity’s Rainbow, the industrial cartels that enable the V-2 rocket attacks against London prefigure the military-industrial complex of Pynchon’s time.
About the Author
Milton A. Cohen is Professor Emeritus of Literary Studies, The University of Texas at Dallas.