Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 308
John Dower focuses on racism as a central factor in the Pacific portion of World War II. He presents racial theories and racist practices on both the Allied and Axis sides. Reviewing the multiple meanings of World War II, he notes that race was a central aspect for countless people:
To scores of millions of participants, the war was also a race war. It exposed raw prejudices and was fueled by racial pride, arrogance, and rage on many sides.
Dower notes that, apart from the Nazi genocide, the racial component of the war had received limited attention before his book, which was one reason he decided to write it. The author devotes part of the book to the propaganda that both the American and Japanese governments produced, which emphasized the enemy’s stereotypically negative qualities and relied on a conquest mentality and disdain for people of other races.
While Dower accounts for the impact of the Pearl Harbor attacks through the American fervor for revenge, he points out the racially focused character of many early responses. In this focus on the “yellow” enemy, for example, he cites a story in the New Yorker “in which the Japanese emerged as ‘yellow monkeys’ in a barroom conversation.”
Exploring how racial and related negative images emerged in Japan, Dower stresses a long-standing opposition between insider and outsider as a way that Japanese rulers had created social cohesion, even in a hierarchical society with fixed levels or castes. During the war, antagonism to Britain and the United States often focused on the citizens’ whiteness as well as their uncivilized behavior, which was often equated with their nonhuman—animal or demonic—nature. There were basically
three highly generalized kinds of images for the Anglo-American enemy: that of beastliness in general; of monsters, demons, or devils; and of fellow—but deranged or degenerate—humans.
Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 235
War Without Mercy is a book about the war between the US and Japan during World War II. The book takes a stark look at the opinions espoused during the war. A quote that shows this truth from the point of view for both sides is this one:
In this milieu of historical forgetfulness, selective reporting, centralized propaganda, and a truly savage war, atrocities and war crimes played a major role in the propagation of racial and cultural stereotypes.
The author, John Dower, goes on to say that the stereotypes came before the atrocities and even existed alongside them.
The focus of the book on not just the American view, but the Japanese side as well, is one of the reasons why the book has prominence. For example, the third part is called “The War in Japanese Eyes.”
Dower introduces the Japanese view in the following quote.
During the war, the Japanese routinely referred to themselves as the leading race of the world.
The term for this is shido minzoku. Bower quickly elaborates that it wasn’t just the Japanese that had displayed this sort of national exceptionalism, however. Other countries, including the US, all expressed their superiority through the media and propaganda of the time, all through their own unique lenses.
For example, the author writes that in Japan,
Anglo-Americans were described as demons (oni), devils (kichiku), fiends (akki and akuma), and monsters (kaibutsu).