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The Korean War in Styron's Fictions
The Korean War had been neglected in American literature, until the oral history of the Vietnam War boomed in the 80s and many of the veterans published their memory of the war. Encouraged by this oral history boom, Korean War veterans have published their own oral histories for the last two decades. William Styron's two fictions, The Long March (1956) and "Marriott, the Marine"(1971), are considered as earlier works concerned with the Korean War in American literature. Though Styron served in the Marines twice, first during the Second World War and second during the Korean War, he spent most of his time in camps and was not sent to the battlefields. Based on his own military experience, the settings of the two fictions were both military camps in North Carolina, not battlefields in Korea. Although the actual battlefields in Korea were not represented in the fictions, it is possible to see his viewpoint on the Korean War in them.
In The Long March antagonism between individuals and the inhumane military system is represented through a captain's rebellion to a colonel. The theme, the inhumane military system suppressing the individuals, frequently appears in war stories and films of the time, such as Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead (1948), James Jones's From Here to Eternity (1951), and David Lean's The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). As Styron, stimulated by the success of The Naked and the Dead and From Here to Eternity, decided to fictionalize his own camp experience as The Long March, it is considered that he was strongly influenced by the conflicts frequently seen in the Second World War stories in the 40 s and early 50s.
"Marriott, the Marine" is a part of his uncompleted novel The Way of the Warrior in which Styron planned to demonstrate that a regular officer, who embodies the esprit of corps of the Marines, has become suspicious of the justification of his service, realizing the inhumanity of military system. Although the conflicts between the individuals and the military system, repeatedly seen in the Second World War stories, succeeded in the novel, influences of the Vietnam War were also scattered in it. For example, the officer's suspicion of his service and the government, which Styron planned to clarify, suggests the anti-war movement even in the military, which was public knowledge in 1966.
Besides, in "Marriott, the Marine" brutality in a certain U.S. soldier is portrayed: prejudice against communists and Asian people, and desire for murder. In 1971, when "Marriott, the Marine" was published, he also published an essay, "Calley," a kind of review on several books about First Lieutenant William Calley and the massacre in My Lai which, revealed in 1969, shocked the people in the U.S.A., and helped many of them regard U.S. soldiers as baby killers and rapists. Styron portrays the same kind of brutality in soldiers who served in the Korean War.
Prejudice against communists and Asian people is amplified in "Love Day," a Second World War story published in 1985. The story suggests that the prejudice for ideology and races, not only in military but also in U.S. society, contributes to the brutality and inhumanity in the soldiers. Comparing The Long March with "Marriott, the Marine" and "Love Day," it is clear that Styron has reconstructed his memory of military service in the Second World War and in the Korean War with insight gained from the Vietnam War.
広島大学総合科学部紀要. I, 地域文化研究