Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School



War literature has ancient roots; accounts of war may be found in representative novels from all parts of the world and from all ages. Following the examples of their predecessors, who mainly recounted battle experiences and the horror and anguish of war, canonical American authors such as Crane, Hemingway, Mailer, and Heller focus primarily on the pain and loss associated with the war experience. Writings such as theirs offer little solace to veterans, their families, and their friends, all of whom struggle to understand war and its aftermath. Native peoples, though, have long possessed an advanced understanding of the trauma of war and the need to heal from the repercussions of war. American Indians, if involved in warfare, are ceremonially prepared for battle and cleansed of the war experience when they return. American Indians know that war interferes with the harmonious state of the universe and places combatants in great spiritual danger because of the risks that warriors take in battle, often for the sake of their communities. Because tribal peoples realize the sacrifice veterans have made and the pain they have endured, healing ceremonies are commonly used to allow veterans to begin to heal. This process is described in House Made of Dawn, a healing narrative. N. Scott Momaday demonstrates how veterans and their communities may begin to recover from the war experience through storytelling and regaining relationship with the land, both of which allow healing to begin. In recent years, authors such as Bobbie Ann Mason, Stewart O'Nan, and Charles Frazier have also written about the need for healing from war. The protagonists in their texts, much like their American Indian counterparts, generally begin to heal from war through storytelling and by renewing earth relationships. While many earlier authors merely recounted battle episodes and reinforced the idea that war is hell, several contemporary authors' works offer veterans possibility and the chance to regain meaningful lives by sharing stories that encourage healing.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

War in literature
American fiction -- 20th century -- History and criticism



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University