Naked and the Dead

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Novel by Norman Mailer, published in 1948.

An American division led by General Cummings invades the Japanese-held island of Anopopei, securing a position in spite of heavy losses. The varied members of Sergeant Croft's reconnaissance platoon are characterized through flashbacks and through their violent language and behavior under the stress of jungle warfare. Despite being undermanned, they withstand a Japanese counterattack, but shoot prisoners and hunt drunkenly among corpses for souvenirs. Personal conflict develops between Cummings, an intellectual who believes that “the morality of the future is a power morality,” and Lieutenant Hearn, who is unwilling to fit into the general's “fear ladder,” while Private Valsen opposes Croft's brutal implementation of Cummings's military philosophy. For a combination of personal and strategic reasons, the platoon is sent on a dangerous patrol across a mountain range, and returns, decimated by casualties, to find the Japanese destroyed and the island taken independently of their efforts.

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards).

Reference entries

Norman Mailer (1923—2007) American novelist and essayist

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