Places Discussed

Ocanara Army Air Base

Ocanara Army Air Base. Sprawling makeshift military facility in Florida comprising landing strips and hastily built temporary structures—a military base similar to many that sprang up in the United States—especially in the South—during World War II. The makeshift nature of the base’s buildings represents perfectly the character of the Army Air Force personnel stationed there. Most of the men and women at Ocanara are not military professionals; rather, they have been moved by patriotism or shame into joining the service. Although the majority of these ex-civilians perform tasks at the base that are similar to what they did in civilian life, most of them would rather be somewhere else—perhaps in combat, probably not. The base is claustrophobic: men and women work together, socialize, and sometimes sleep together. The setting clearly represents a microcosm, not only of the 1940’s South, but of American culture of that era.

The moral perspectives of the novel’s characters constitute a full range of choices and positions. Hence, just as there exist contrasting qualities among the physical characteristics of the air base and the nearby town, Ocanara, the characters’ multiple points of view create a good deal of tension among base personnel. Questions of morality surface in the forms of discussions, arguments, and debate concerning not only military dereliction of duty but marital fidelity and sexual conduct—and, what is most important, racial prejudice.

Among people on the base, the...

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Bracher, Frederick. The Novels of James Gould Cozzens. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1959. Points out that the flashback-filled opening episode introduces the themes of possession, power delegation, racial antagonisms, and personal and psychological tangles. Identifies Cozzens’ skillful patterning of apparently random incidents and defines the novel’s underlying message that inevitable concessions to circumstance should not invalidate an individual’s moral, honorable ideals.

Bruccoli, Matthew J. James Gould Cozzens: A Life Apart. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovan-ovich, 1983. In one chapter, the author narrates Cozzens’ military career and identifies military personnel used as models for characters in Guard of Honor. Another chapter discusses the novel’s composition and contents and explains its popular and critical reception.

Dillard, R. H. W. “Guard of Honor: Providential Luck in a Hard-Luck World.” In James Gould Cozzens: New Acquist of True Experience, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1979. Sees Guard of Honor as a novel of freedom and values though in a context of seeming enclosure, restriction, and ruin.

Michel, Pierre. James Gould Cozzens. Boston: Twayne, 1974. Analyzes Cozzens’ conclusions in Guard of Honor that war, like life, disrupts harmonies, that heroism is limited, that reality countermands principles, and that duty requires responsbile compromising, even the bending of rules. The center of the novel’s intricate narrative is an observant, contemplative consciousness.

Mooney, Harry John, Jr. James Gould Cozzens: Novelist of Intellect. Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1963. Asserts that in Guard of Honor, Cozzens uses intelligent narrative points of view, pauses to dissect motives and principles, traces causes and effects, and dramatizes the acceptable consequences of intellectual limitations.