While Machine Dreams certainly could not be considered a war novel in the usual sense, World War II and the Vietnam war frame this novel as the actual wars marked the boundaries of an era in American life. Just as World War II was the defining event of Mitch Hampson's generation, so Vietnam was for his son's. As Phillips clearly demonstrates, however, these two wars were vastly different. Mitch, who sees the distinctions only belatedly, expresses the attitude that military service is Billy's patriotic duty. Danner, Mitch's daughter, does not consider the war justified; her attitude is...
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