Manhood Undone: Negotiating Trauma and Masculinity in Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time, Ron Kovic's Born on the Fourth of July, and Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues

Opalinski, Anna Brook
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Florida Southern College
20th century definitions of masculinity for white, heterosexual men are often constructed around war; moreover, these ideological and behavioral constructions have shifted, as the theaters in which these wars were fought also changed. However, these concepts of masculinity did not usually account for post-war stressors, especially post-traumatic stress disorder. Indeed, combatants’ physical injuries challenged paradigms of the strong, invincible male body, while mental injuries undermined conceptions of male emotional strength. Reflective of the changing constructions of masculinity, American literature mirrors the evolving representations of masculinity, in particular, the characters Nick Adams in Ernest Hemingway’s World War I collection In Our Time (1925), Ron Kovic in his Vietnam memoir Born on the Fourth of July (1976), and Sergeant Merwin J. Toomey in Neil Simon’s World War II home-front drama Biloxi Blues (1984). Each of these texts exemplify white, heterosexual men’s struggles reconstructing their manhood after war. All three characters face similar hurdles: a) fulfilling society’s expectations of them to be the same men they were before war; and b) reconciling these expectations with their internal realizations that they cannot uphold such paradigms. Instead, they redefine and reclaim their masculinity in ways not often conventional to their time.
Honors Thesis Spring 2020
Hemingway, Ernest, 1899-1961. Short stories. Selections (In our time) , Kovic, Ron. Born on the Fourth of July. , Simon, Neil. Biloxi blues , Masculinity , War stories , War and society , War and families , War and literature