The Korean War in Literature Summary


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

In contrast to most of the major wars that have occurred in the twentieth century, the Korean War resists attempts to render it in literature. Most of the literature that exists about the Korean War was written long after the war was over. Some of the best literature about the Korean conflict has been written by American soldiers who were introduced to the country by tours of duty as peacekeepers. These soldiers saw Korea after the fighting ceased. The Korean War is the subject of a crop of Hollywood films, but writers have been largely silent.

One theory regarding this silence is James Jones’s idea that although he was able to write about World War II, a popular and patriotic war, almost at will, those who served in Korea, and many of those in the United States and in Britain, were not certain what the war was about. Finally, with a shaky peace in place, it was necessary to maintain a military presence to enforce peace. The Korean War, in a sense, did not end. Some may even consider it to be the first war that America lost. Writers were loathe to present such a possibility in the 1950’s, which were years of prosperity and contentment for many Americans. The Korean War was not hugely unpopular, as the Vietnam War was; the Korean War sparked little protest. It neither generated a strong national prowar feeling, as World War II did, nor an antiwar feeling, as the Vietnam War did. The Korean War was also relatively short (1950-1953).


(The entire section is 483 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Axelsson, Arne. Restrained Response: American Novels of the Cold War and Korea, 1945-1962. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1990.

Coon, Gene L. Meanwhile, Back at the Front. New York: Crown, 1961.

Pollini, Francis. Night. Paris: Olympia Press, 1960.

Thorin, Duane. A Ride to Panmunjom. Chicago: Regnery, 1956.

Walker, Wilbert L. Stalemate at Panmunjom. Baltimore: Heritage Press, 1980.

Wantling, William. The Source. Paradise, Calif.: Dustbooks, 1966.

Woods, Denis J. British Forces in the Korean War. United Kingdom: The British Koreans Veterans Association, 1988.