Biloxi Blues explores the touching and comic transformation that boys experience as they enter manhood. This theme is reflected in the three lines of dramatic action: the conflict between Arnold and Toomey, Eugene’s quest for love, and his growth as a writer.
The conflict between Arnold and Toomey is a clash of wills and ideals. Toomey represents discipline, obedience, and self-sacrifice; Arnold is reason and individual integrity. Thematically, the two men represent opposing principles: physical versus intellectual strength, one’s animal versus one’s spiritual side, and the natural law of warfare versus the man-made law of the Talmud. Arnold explains his defiance to Toomey: “The army has its logic, I have my own.” They find a common ground in the final confrontation, where Toomey must accept his human weakness and Arnold his dutiful heroism. Both men see their fantasies fulfilled, and each is made complete by the triumph of the other. As extremes, Arnold and Toomey define a range of possibilities for American manhood. True manhood includes both ideals, and as the six soldiers experience the rite of passage called basic training, each finds his own identity as an adult.
Eugene, as the playwright’s mouthpiece and alter ego, provides a window through which the audience experiences this growth. In a sense, he is Everyman, and his journey to emotional maturity is therefore universal and accessible. It takes him from the...
(The entire section is 410 words.)