What is the main idea or theme of Fifth of July?  

The main theme of Fifth of July is the necessity of putting the past behind us and moving on. Ken and his friends were once firmly committed to the anti-war movement, but now they have to be equally committed to moving on with their lives and looking to the future.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Although the action of Lanford Wilson's Fifth of July takes place a full two years after the end of the Vietnam War, it's clear that the main characters of the play have yet to move on from this seismic event in American history.

In the case of Kenny, this is entirely understandable. After all, he lost both legs in the war and so cannot move on as easily as he would like. His disability acts as a constant reminder of this traumatic period in his life and the life of the nation he served so bravely out in Vietnam.

Kenny's friend Gwen, however, has much greater scope for moving on with her life on account of her being an heiress to a copper fortune and whose commitment to the anti-war appears to have been somewhat shallow, to say the least. After all, this is someone who used to fly to protest marches as she never had a pair of shoes comfortable enough for hitchhiking.

Kenny's half-cousin, a young boy who's recorded a story on tape, provides something in the way of an answer for what Kenny and his friends should do now:

After they had explored all the suns in the universe, and all the planets of all the suns, they realized that there was no other life in the universe, and that they were all alone. And they were very happy, because then they knew it was up to them to become all the things they had imagined they would find.

Kenny and his friends must look to the future. It's entirely in their grasp. They must take the opportunity to renew themselves and become that which they really want to be. During the Vietnam War, they were unable to do this; their identities were shaped by the conflict.

But as the war recedes into history, Kenny and his friends are presented with a golden opportunity to create themselves anew, to forge their own identities to meet the challenges of the future.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial