William Styron – The Long March

William Styron – The Long March

William Styron was born in Newport News, Virginia on June 11th, 1935. His father, William Clark Styron, was a shipyard engineer who had come to Virginia from Washington, a port town on the Pamlico River in North Carolina. His mother, Pauline Margaret Abraham Styron, was a member of a Pennsylvanian family from Uniontown, a small city in the coke-manufacturing area southeast of Pittsburgh. At an early age William showed an aptitude for the written word, he began writing and publishing short stories for his high school newspaper at the age of thirteen.

Styrons early life was peaceful and happy, but by the age of fourteen Styrons mother had died of cancer. This traumatic event coupled with her decline during adolescence left permanent scares that helped shape his personality and his writing. In order to evade his stern new stepmother Styron entered a boys prep school near Urbanna called Christchurch where he published the previously mentioned short stories. After graduating from high school, Styron entered Davidson College in 1942. It was here that he began writing seriously, contributing frequently to the school newspaper and composing poems for the literary magazine.

He was then transferred to Duke University in June 1943 to enter the Navys officer training (V-12) program. At Duke Styron published a number of short stories in The Archive, Dukes literary magazine. Styron stayed at Duke until October 1944, when he was ordered to Parris Island for boot camp. He moved on to Camp Lejeune and to Quantico for further military preparation and emerged as a Marine Second Lieutenant in July 1945. After his discharge from military service, Styron returned to Duke and completed his degree. His mentor at Duke, Prof.

William Blackburn, helped him land a position in New York City as an associate editor at McGraw-Hill Publishers. In New York Styron attempted to begin a novel but stalled out; after being fired from his publishing job he drifted about living in various cities. He finally settled with friends in Valley Cottage New York, and using his G. I. bill and father for financial support, began to write his first novel. With the help of a talented editor, Hiram Hayden, Styron completed his manuscript in the spring of 1951. Styron was rushed to finish this novel.

This was because of the start of the Korean War. After World War II Styron remained in the reserves and was called back into service. Luckily Styron was quickly discharged due to a vision defect in his right eye. Once back from service, Styron returned to New York for the publication of his novel Lie Down in Darkness in September 1951. The book quickly received high praise from reviewers and won the Prix de Rome of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. This award sent Styron to Europe in the spring of 1952. While in Paris Styron helped to get The Paris Review off the ground.

He also wrote and published the novella The Long March, a short novel about his experiences in the military during the Korean War. In the fall Styron moved to Rome for a yearlong residency at the American Academy. There he renewed his acquaintance with Rose Burgunder, of Baltimore, whom he had met briefly at Johns Hopkins University a year before. The couple soon fell in love and got married in Rome in May 1953; after an extended honeymoon in Ravello, they returned to the U. S. in December. Once in America the two settled in Roxbury, Connecticut, a rural town close to Hartford.

They still live there today. Styrons second full novel, Set This House on Fire, was published in May 1960 with Random House. The American reviewers gave this book a case of the sophomore slumps, but the French translation issued in 1962 by the house of Gallimard received high acclaim. This enthusiastic reception began a strong connection between Styron and France that has informed much of his successive writing. Styron published his next novel, The Confessions of Nat Turner, in 1967. This is a fictional account of the Southampton slave uprising of 1831.

The book was instantly given rave reviews and a national best seller. The book received the Pulitzer Prize, but negative criticism soon threw the book into controversy. Styrons introspective and psychological portrayal of Nat Turner brought him bitter criticism from many African-American authors. They claimed that Styron had little understanding of the slave experience and that Styrons Turner was tinged with racism. Despite the contention the novel received the Howells Medal from the American Academy of the Arts and Letter in 1970. Probably Styrons best know novel, Sophies Choice, was published in June 1979.

This is a novel about a Holocaust victim; it grew out of an encounter he had in 1949, in a Brooklyn rooming house, with a Polish Catholic survivor of the death camp at Auschwitz. The novel was made into a successful movie staring Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline. Many critics say that this novel is Styrons attempt to universalize the Holocaust. Over two million copies of Sophies Choice are in print today. In the 1980s Styron suffered a period of psychological decline, which came to a head in 1985 with his hospitalization for acute depression. He rebounded quite well and used his experiences to publish Darkness Visible in 1990.

This novel is described as powerful evocation of melancholia that many suffers from the affliction (depression) have found uncanny in its accuracy. Styron wrote the story to demystify depression and to establish it as a disease, not a defect of person. Since 1990 Styron has continued to write, publishing a collection of three novellas called Tidewater Morning. He has also written essays for The New Yorker, The Nation, Vanity Fair, and American Heritage. Styron is now writing a novel about his experiences during World War II. It is easy to see what a prolific and talented writer that William Styron is and will continue to be.

The Styron work I chose was The Long March. This novella was written in Paris while Styron was with the American Academy and establishing The Paris Review. By Styrons accounts this work is largely autobiographical. Just like the two main characters, Lieutenant Culver and Captain Mannix, Styron served in the Marine Corps during World War II and, as a reserve officer, was recalled to active duty in 1950 when the Korean War began. In his nine-month active duty, Styron actually participated in a forced march on which the action of the book is based. For me, this fact made the story that much more interesting and compelling.

This story focuses on two mens philosophy and mentality of the world, life and especially military after the breakdown after World War II. Culver and Mannix both served their country in the War to end all Wars, only to find out that not much has actually changed. To make matters even darker, both men had been ripped from their secure and peaceful home lives to fight for a cause they have no passion or interest in. The Long March is basically the protest of the paradox that these men are subjects to an army that is essentially anti-democratic to support the American democratic way.

Both men, Culver and Mannix, struggle with the fact that this military is the establishment that holds them from freedom and happiness. Rebellion is the motivating force behind this novel. Captain Mannix decides chooses to stand up rather than lie down. Culver is the dialectic character who chronicles the action and relates it to use through his own perspective. Culver has been compared to characters such as Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby and Ishmael in Moby Dick. Whoever you compare the characters to the story relates a powerful message.

By the end of the novel we see that through his rebellion Mannix has essentially lost. He is battered physically and mentally and the only thing he has to show for his efforts are a possible court marshal and combat over seas. It is essentially pessimistic, no matter hhow noble Mannixs rebellion was to himself or to Culver his action were not symbolic, but totally individual. Therefore his actions are seen as hopeless and absurd, bringing down punishment that only made the situation worse. It raises the question of what is the best way to rebel, refuse to let the establishment win or to completely refuse to play the game.

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