"Our grand narrative of women and war" : writing, and writing past, a gendered understanding of war front and home front in the war writing of Hemingway, O'Brien, Plath, and Salinger.




Ooms, Julie.

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Scholars and theorists who discuss the relationship between gender and war agree that the divide between the war front and the home front is gendered. This boundary is also a cause of pain, of misunderstanding, and of the breakdown of community. One way that soldiers and citizens, men and women, on either side of the boundary can rebuild community and find peace after war is to think—and write—past this gendered understanding of the divide between home front and war front. In their war writing, the four authors this dissertation explores—Ernest Hemingway, Tim O'Brien, Sylvia Plath, and J.D. Salinger—display evidence of this boundary, as well as its destructive effects on persons on both sides of it. They also, in different ways, and with different levels of success, write or begin to write past this boundary and its gendered understanding of home front and war front. Through my exploration of these four authors’ work, I conclude that the war writers of the twentieth century have a problem to solve: they still write within an understanding of war that very clearly genders combatants and noncombatants, warriors and home front helpers. However, they also live and write within a historical and political era that opens up a greater possibility to think and write past this gendered understanding. Those writers who successfully utilize these tools are those able to restore their characters to at least some level of community and peace after war's end.



War literature., Twentieth-century American literature., Gender and war.