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The Naked and the Dead

Only in his later political journalism did he reac Biography EssayNorman Mailer's achievement lies primarily in his treatment of the conflict between man's search for self-actualization and the strictures society places upon him. Mailer has rendered t Since the publication of his first novel, The Naked and the Dead, catapulted Norman Mailer to sudden fame in the late s, he has been alternately praised and criticized due to his outspoken opinion Norman Mailer's achievement lies primarily in his treatment of the conflict between man's search for self-actualization and the strictures society places upon him.

Mailer has rendered this theme with In various newspaper columns, essays, interviews, and novels from the mids to the late s, Norman Mailer has brooded over the psychological and cultural implications of what he has termed the Norman Mailer has labored for most of his literary career to repudiate what he himself describes as "the one personality he found absolutely insupportable--the nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn.

After almost fifty years as a literary celebrity and a prolific writer of both fiction and nonfiction, Norman Mailer still defies critics and scholars to define his niche as a writer. Since his first novel, The Naked and the Dead, was published in , Norman Mailer has written some forty books, including novels, essays, political journalism, poetry, drama, and screenplays.


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Critical Essay by Laura Adams. Critical Essay by Robert Alter. Critical Essay by Philip H. Critical Essay by Robert Merrill. Keith Fuller Mr. But denied support from the navy or the air he must come up with other tactics with the resources he does have.

The Naked and the Dead Summary

At the same time, his relationship with Lieutenant Hearn has broken down and Hearn is requesting a transfer. It occurs to the General, that a recon mission, over the unoccupied southern half of the island and through a pass in the mountains into the rear of the Japanese position may prove propitious. Hearn, though not anxious for combat, is relieved to be in the company of soldiers and not officers. But he does appreciate that he is intruding on a unit that have already been through a lot together, under a sergeant now used to command, and they will be reluctant to take orders from a stranger.

The danger of their mission, the physicality of traversing dense jungle and mountain passes, with men nearing their emotional and physical limits, means he already has plenty to contend with. A bestseller, it was published in ; a time when America was eagerly anticipating the arrival of novels depicting the war. The novel is very frank and it was somewhat controversial on release. I suspect this was partly due to the frequent use of profanity. The frank description of sexual relations, much of it pre-marital and adulterous, probably made some uncomfortable at the time as well.

For the modern reader, these aspects are barely provocative.

What is more noticeable is the misogynistic and anti-Semitic attitudes of the characters and what this may say about the American man of the era. While, understandably, the men dwell frequently on their wives and girlfriends back home; they are also anxious and paranoid about their fidelity and frequently display the double-standards and sexism of the time. I wonder if the misogyny and sexism were issues for readers in though. The novel has some pacing issues.

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The Naked and the Dead is not particularly action-packed, nor would it necessarily be realistic if it were. Mailer originally wanted the novel to consist mostly of the dangerous mission of the platoon, but, in the interest of creating greater context, expanded events leading up to the mission to the extent that it has a large share in the novel. What it may lack in action it makes up for in genuine moments of great tension on the front line. There are also some haunting scenes of burned out tanks, destroyed trenches and bloated corpses.

Consideration for such short platoon duration, though, would not have lent itself to the sort of character development Mailer clearly wants to achieve. These backstories were the most interesting parts of the novel for me. Through them, the reader can appreciate the slice of America Mailer has assembled in this platoon.


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Many of the men come from poverty; from small towns in the South or urban immigrant communities. Red comes from a small, enclosed mining town. The company that owns and operates the mine pretty much seems to own the whole town including the accommodation, stores, bars and the bank. The nature of coal-mining means a low life expectancy of course and it is not uncommon for miners to die and leave their young family in debt to the company. Escaping from such a life is not easy. For Red, who realised he could no longer live that way, it meant abandoning his family and living as a homeless drifter before finding himself in the army.

Red is one of the men on the platoon who has seen the most combat.


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Increasingly jaded and introspective; his thoughts are some of the best passages. What did it matter if they ever got out of the Army? It would be the same thing on the outside. Nothing ever turns out the way you want it.

The Naked and the Dead Essay Topics & Writing Assignments

He did it himself, and he had nothing to look forward to but a succession of barren little towns and rented rooms, of nights spent listening to men talk in bar-rooms. What would there be outside of a whore and some tremors in his groin? They persist throughout this over page novel. So, deep in the novel, you will still be reading backstory for characters who have now been with you for quite a while. This is particularly problematic in one respect. As mentioned above, in the early parts of the novel, considerable narrative is devoted to Cummings and his aide Hearn. Cummings, we learn is a closet gay man who was encouraged to be himself by his mother but was opposed with violence by his father.

An army career gave him the opportunity to exercise his self-denial through discipline, perfectionism and ambition. Hearn is a man with communist sympathies who was never accepted by those who share his views. As the son of a wealthy industrialist, he would never be fully trusted, nor believed, as having empathy for the working class man. His joining the army, before Pearl Harbour, was something for a two-fingered salute to both his capitalist father and to the socialists who would never accept him. As you can imagine, these backstories add considerable context to the discussions Cummings and Hearn have.

Unfortunately, by the time we learn of their histories, their relationship in the novel is at an end and the reader has to try and reinterpret their conversations in hindsight with this new information. The reader has the same problem with other backstories given in the latter half of the novel; wondering how everything up to that point may have to be reinterpreted.

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I had thought that it might be interesting to gain a sense of their oeuvre, an appreciation of their evolution as writers. The reason I had read them at all was for the above reasons as Pamuk would go on to win a Nobel Prize and Ishiguro would go on to win one Booker Prize and be a close contender for more.

I am now more inclined to leave such considerations for academics and hardcore fans.