Novels and reminiscences written by Vietnam combat veterans are being published with increasing frequency. Dust jackets and end papers proclaim that each new narrative is for Vietnam what All Quiet on the Western Front was for World War I and The Naked and the Dead or Catch 22 were for World War II. Unfortunately, if it can be said that generals fight current wars using the tactics of earlier wars, so Vietnam War authors structure their narratives using the frameworks of earlier writers. Too many – Winston Groom’s Better Times Than These or Steven Phillips Smith’s American Boys are typical – place contemporary soldiers on the battlefields of an earlier literature where young men encounter ironies, absurdities, and paradoxes. Most attempts to write about what young men experienced in Vietnam reveal that the conventions of war fiction, as we have come to know them, cannot adequately shape the experience of that war. Authors have not yet found a narrative form articulating the Vietnam combat experience.

Note on the Author

Charles Angell has taught in Bridgewater's English Department since 1969.

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