The Conflict between Man and Machine in The Naked and the Dead Essay

The Conflict between Man and Machine in The Naked and the Dead Essay

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While the surface of Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead centers around World War II, its focus is on “the conflict…between the mechanistic forces of the ‘system’ and the will to individual integrity” (Waldron 273). The ultimate domination by the ‘machine’ makes for a very depressing, hopeless novel. Mailer explores this conflict mainly in the interactions between General Cummings and Lieutenant Hearn, and although less extensively through their lower ranked counterparts, Sergeant Croft and Private Red Valsen. It is in these interactions that The Naked and the Dead makes a statement about not only war, but society. Therefore, in order to fully understand the novel, Cummings, Hearn, Croft, and Valsen must be examined and understood for both their admirable and contemptible qualities and also analyzed in their interactions with each other. Once the personalities of the characters are established, the conflict between man and machine asserts itself, and Mailer’s idea of this conflict in society becomes clearer.
Much of the realism that The Naked and the Dead has come to be known for comes from Mailer’s experience during World War II. Although he wished to be sent to fight in Europe, Mailer was instead sent to the South Pacific, specifically the Philippines. While there, Mailer did see some limited combat, and he strove to describe it in realistic detail in the novel.

As the backdrop for the conflict between machine and man, Mailer supplies the fictional island of Anopopei in the South Pacific during World War II. Anopopei itself takes on a kind of personality all its own.
“The island of Anopopei, which presented itself as a bright vision, proves to be a nightmare. It is the mysterious world in which men live, worki...

... middle of paper ...

...etimes one can write something too realistically.

Works Cited

Glicksberg, Charles I. "Norman Mailer: The Angry Young Novelist in America." Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature 1.1 (1963): 23-34. JSTOR. Web. 30 Jan. 2010.
Goldstone, Herbert. "The Novels of Norman Mailer." The English Journal 45.3 (1956): 113-21. JSTOR. Web. 30 Jan. 2010.
Horn, Bernard. "Ahab and Ishmael at War: The Presence of Moby-Dick in the Naked and the Dead." American Quarterly 34.4 (1982): 379-95. JSTOR. Web. 30 Jan. 2010.
Mailer, Norman. The Naked and the Dead. New York: Picador, 1998. Print.
Siegel, Paul N. "The Malign Deity of The Naked and the Dead." Twentieth Century Literature 20.4 (1974): 291-97. JSTOR. Web. 30 Jan. 2010.
Waldron, Randall H. "The Naked, the Dead, and the Machine: A New Look at Norman Mailer's First Novel." PMLA 87.2 (1972): 271-77. JSTOR. Web. 30 Jan. 2010.

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