Battles With Weather and Terrain in The Naked and The Dead

Battles With Weather and Terrain in The Naked and The Dead

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Often times, when I think about war, I only think about the protagonist going against the antagonist. I think that the only thing worth worrying about is the enemy and their position. We never stop to think about the weather and terrain that these soldiers face on a day-to-day basis. My vision of war is clouded by what comes out of the Hollywood movies. Luckily, such war veterans like Norman Mailer write and publish novels like The Naked and the Dead, which gives me a better insight as to what war is really like. Mailer's description of the weather and terrain throughout his novel shows that the weather and terrain is the soldiers' main enemy.

Sometimes, just crossing the terrain to get to the next battlefield is the biggest challenge. Rivers and large creeks are always a real challenge for any platoon to cross successfully. Norman Mailer illustrates the difficulties of crossing rivers and creeks in his novel when he writes, "The water was close to his waist, swirling powerfully about him" Mailer (458). At first I did not think about this being a big problem for soldiers to do, but after thinking about everything these soldiers had been through in the book I soon realized why this was so hard to do. The soldiers are crossing this river with heavy packs on their backs, wearing wet boots, and have just marched and crossed several miles of jungle, beach, and other terrain. After realizing everything they had done prior to crossing the river it is easy to see why rivers and creeks poise such difficulties for infantryman.

Rivers and creeks are not the only difficult terrain the soldiers had to cross in Norman Mailer's novel. The I&R platoon, short for intelligence and reconnaissance platoon, had to beaches, jungles, open fields, and even a mountain. Ignacio Schwartz, a writer for The Reviews of Art, Literature, Philosophy, and Humanities, concurs, "There are many battles throughout the book, but maybe the most powerful one is the battle with the jungle" (1). Mailer shows good examples of most of these terrains in his book, and the dangers of crossing them. Even though the men are not fighting throughout the entire novel the men are suffering from injuries suffered from the long journey.

If the terrain is not hard enough for a soldier to deal with then the weather will always be.

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In the novel the weather always seems to get to the soldiers just as bad as the terrain, if not worse. There is always rain, hail, or just simply extreme heat or cold to deal with. With Mailer's description of the rain it becomes easier to see how the weather can affect the soldiers' morale. Mailer describes the storm as, "The rain came on softly, tapped against the rubber fabric of the shelter, and then began to drive harder. In only a few seconds it became furious with pellets like hail (95). The weather can do more damage to an infantryman's morale in one day, than the opposing army can in one week. The weather could be so bad that it can cause any soldier to forget some of the simplest of battlefield rules. Weather has always played a big part of every war.

Mailer shows his audience that the weather and terrain during a war is a soldier's biggest enemy. Through Mailer's book, The Naked and the Dead, he shows us an inside look at what war really looks like, and how much weather and terrain effects the soldiers in the novel. After reading this book it is hard to just look at war as the protagonist versus the antagonist. Now the other elements that make up a war start to appear, and proves why war should be avoided at all costs.

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