Barnes, West, Miller, and the Military’s Frankness about Sex and Venereal Disease
By the 1930s, the postmobilization tale of Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and Hemingway (the racist promiscuity plot) was already being subverted, while still being utilized. In Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, Nightwood by Djuna Barnes, and The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West, there is still a central promiscuous Anglo woman; there are love relationships with ethnic Americans, and often with Jews; there are obsessed romantics; there are sometimes mentally deficient characters, and there are lovers who have special relationships with a promiscuous woman. But now the ethnic character is not scapegoated; the masculine soldierly ideal comes under attack; the figure of the charity girl is parodied, and the military is openly criticized, its concern over venereal disease mocked. The postmobilization novels of the thirties are no longer haunted by sexual liaisons between military figures and women — as were the twenties novels, as well as the 1917-1918 military authorities; rather, the figures of the prostitute and the charity girl are now fetishized, not romanticized or problematized.
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