Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Reviewed on September 13, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1084

American War is a novel that revolves around the themes of political division within the setting of a climate-change-ravaged-US. The novel begins after the start of the Second American Civil War, which is precipitated by a ban on the use of fossil fuels. This ban is enacted because of the effects of climate change, which have already led to the loss of Florida and much of the coast to the sea. This ban leads South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas to secede from the United States. South Carolina is subdued by a biological weapon that leads to a mass infection of "the Slow," a disease which causes prolonged lethargy and then death. To prevent the spread of the disease, the Northern government constructs a wall around South Carolina, manned by guards instructed to shoot any who try to escape, though there is apparently no concern with individuals seeking entry. Texas is invaded by Mexico, leading to a war between Texas militias and the Mexican government that lingers. The Northern government uses drones early on in the war, but the Southern militias destroy the command stations, preventing communication with the drones. Since the drones are solar-powered, they remain in the air, occasionally dropping a bomb or crashing into civilian centers. This creates animosity, as Southern residents blame the North, while Northern residents blame the Southern militias for destroying the command equipment.

Illustration of PDF document

Download American War Study Guide

Subscribe Now

It is in this environment that Sarat is born and raised with her siblings in Louisiana, near the border with what is known as the MAG (Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia). Sarat and her family live in a converted shipping container and subsist in a mostly neutral position between the North and South, though Sarat's father does apply for a position working for the North. While completing his application, Sarat's father is killed in a "homicide bombing" committed by a Southern militia group. The family is notified, and Sarat's mother works to provide for the family's needs. She grows to depend on the kindness of a neighbor who receives provisions from a Southern militia group in return for providing support. Sarat's mother decides to leave their home with the children after seeing a nearby explosion that she believes is the extension of the Mexican conflict into their area. She beseeches the Southern commander who is working with her neighbor to help her evacuate and is eventually successful in receiving a pass to Camp Patience. The family crosses the Mississippi River and hikes to the pick-up station. After a lengthy wait, they are gathered on to a bus, which eventually fills beyond capacity, and delivered to Camp Patience, a refugee camp. They live in the camp for the next six years.

While in the camp, Sarat develops a reputation for fearlessness and befriends a boy who helps her in the camp, though he and his father eventually sneak into the North. This boy later joins the Northern Army and provides information to Sarat. Sarat also befriends Albert Gaines, a recruiter for the Southern militias. He gives Sarat gifts and indoctrinates her, ultimately recruiting her as a guerrilla fighter. Sarat's brother joins a Southern militia and engages in raids on the North. These raids ultimately bring a Northern militia to the camp, where they commit a massacre. Sarat hides in Albert Gaines's office with her sister, though their mother is killed and their brother is badly wounded, resulting in his lifelong mental incapacity. Sarat kills a Northern militia man before Southern forces come to collect the survivors.

Sarat, her sister, and her brother are relocated to Georgia. Sarat uses Georgia as a base of operations for assassination missions. She ultimately assassinates the top general of the Northern army, leading to an escalation in force from the Northern army. Sarat has a...

(The entire section contains 1084 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this American War study guide. You'll get access to all of the American War content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
  • Themes
  • Characters
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial