The Naked and the Dead Battlefield Hell within Bookcovers

The Naked and the Dead follows an army platoon through the terror and boredom of war.

Norman Mailer weaves stories of each man’s background into the story of their part in the victory over the Japanese on Anopopei Island.

The men in the Intelligence and Reconnaissance platoon are losers. Some are pleasant losers, some vicious losers. Their interests are broads, booze, protecting their egos, and staying alive. They hate their two-timing wives, their officers, their fathers, Jews, Mexicans, Asians, and themselves. They are incapable of the unbiased, intelligent judgment I&R requires.

Sent to assess the possibility of attacking the enemy from the rear, the men perform incredible feats of endurance.

Those that survive the patrol learn their efforts were totally pointless. While they were gone, the battle was won by the blunder of an inept, pencil-pushing major.

Mailer uses gelid every couple hundred pages to elevate his tone, but if you edited out the f-word and discussions of women and liquor, you’d have a novella.

Mailer is a good story-teller. This isn’t just a story, however; it’s Mailer’s soapbox. He’s going to prove environment makes the man if it takes him 800 pages to do it.

The effect is stultifying as jungle heat.

The Naked and the Dead
By Norman Mailer
Rinehart, 1948
721 pages
1948 bestseller # 2
My Grade: C
© 2008 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda Aragoni

I'm passionate about helping people learn through the medium of nonfiction writing. Although I occasionally have an idea of my own, I mostly build education tools by recycling and repurposing other folks' ideas.

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