Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

At the heart of this story is the struggle of American Jews, at midcentury, to keep faith with their nation and the ideals of the U.S. Constitution in the face of both German death camps and the U.S. national reaction to what is now called the Holocaust. Soon after World War II, it became apparent that the U.S. government had chosen not to confront the conditions of the German concentration camps or to inform the citizenry of Nazi genocide during the course of the war. Into the bargain, anti-Semitism was virulent in the United States both during and after the war. Irwin Shaw is at pains to reveal the spiritual turmoil and agony of American Jews in the wake of these social currents. He accomplishes this especially by showing his readers that Jews bore their share of suffering in the defeat of fascism and also reminds the reader that anyone who fought in Europe was, during the summer of 1945, a candidate for being shipped to the Pacific war zone for more combat. One must remember that Seeger is one of three sons called to service. His brother Leonard has been killed; he and his other brother, Jacob, have been wounded. Such manifest signs of sacrifice should discredit the anti-Semitism that the living sons and their father have so keenly experienced.

At another level, the story reveals how the young among a class of scapegoats in an ostensibly democratic nation, and especially under conditions of extreme trial, must struggle with the antithetical social...

(The entire section is 463 words.)