Robert Olen Butler American Literature Analysis
In a 1993 interview, Butler noted that his military service, his intimate encounter with the people of Vietnam, and his intense experience with the ravishing sensuality of that country turned him into a fiction writer. Butler said, “I had the impulse—that is the impulse of art which is a deep but inchoate conviction that the world makes sense under its surface disorder or chaos—I wanted to write to articulate that vision.”
Butler’s experience in Vietnam served as the basis for three of his major novels, The Alleys of Eden, Sun Dogs (1982), and On Distant Ground (1985). The major theme of this Vietnam War trilogy is the outsider abroad and at home, an alien in a country at war and an alien in his own country after the war. The three novels share characters, incidents, scenes, and symbols. In these novels, the protagonists are all soldiers who have served together as part of an American intelligence-interrogation unit stationed near Saigon.
In The Alleys of Eden, Clifford Wilkes is an Army deserter who escapes from Vietnam during the fall of Saigon with Lanh, his lover, a Vietnamese bargirl. Wilson Hand, Wilkes’s fellow soldier and the protagonist of Sun Dogs, carries the war with him in his soul to the oil fields of Alaska, where he is on an investigative mission that uncovers industrial espionage. On Distant Ground is the story of the court martial of David Fleming, a fellow...
(The entire section is 3907 words.)
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