Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

A sequel to The Winds of War (1971), War and Remembrance has met with mixed critical response. On one hand, reviewers extol Wouk’s sure grasp of military and political history and the exciting manner in which he presents the major theaters of war, particularly Midway. The characterization of Armin von Roon, the fictional German general, has been singled out for particularly high praise, revealing as it does an extraordinary ability to get within the mind of a character who is utterly alien to American ways of thought. On the other hand, Victor Henry has been called a “prig” who is all too perfect, always in the right place at the right time, and most of the other fictional characters have been dubbed stereotypes with little depth or color.

It is true that Wouk runs the danger of stereotyping by presenting rather ordinary characters such as Pug’s wife, Rhoda. Compared to the exciting historical events that Wouk dramatizes so crisply, her affairs seem dull and prosaic. Yet she seems a valid marker of precisely those areas of American life that were largely untouched by a war that did not take place on American soil. It is easy for characters such as Rhoda to maintain their illusions, to ask “What’s WRONG with illusions?” Indeed, von Roon has this typical kind of obliviousness in mind when he speaks of Americans lacking “the European sense of the past, and writers of broad culture.”

More troubling for reviewers, however, is Wouk’s honoring of American history. Unlike Norman...

(The entire section is 629 words.)