ABSTRACT. In this study I propose that an individual’s masculinity can merge with the masculine identity of an entire group (the platoon or collective), and, during the Vietnam War, a normally peaceful man could perform reprehensible actions when surrounded by others who both condoned and advocated such behavior (and with whom he had formed an emotional connection). The group’s bond was cemented and indeed flourished by inflicting violence upon Asian women, who were viewed as “whores,” instruments used for the dual purpose of “breaking in” new soldiers and sustaining the existing bond. Men’s wartime relationships were also supported by their shared resentment of American women, who allegedly did not understand their trauma. Larry Heinemann’s two major works, Close Quarters and Paco’s Story, most adequately exemplify this formula. I discuss the important change in narrative structure from Close Quarters to Paco’s Story, and how this shift in narration influences the reader’s perceptions of the characters. I suggest that in his first novel Heinemann wrote women as stereotypes so they could produce a desired result – i.e. the vet can reach a level of healing through the “forgiving woman,” or connect with his buddies via misogynistic behavior with the “harmless Vietnamese whore.” In his later novel, however, Heinemann rids his text of sweet American farm girls and innocuous Vietnamese village girls, and replaces them with unsympathetic, sexually aggressive, and even combat-ready characters. As a result, the vet is denied pardon and penance, is forced to face his pervasive ugliness, and is left a specter forever doomed to haunt himself. pp. 232–278

Keywords: Vietnam War; gender; masculinity; sexuality; sexual assault; trauma

How to cite: Ferguson, Lisa (2015), “‘Gooks’ and Farm Girls: Male Bonding and Feminine Undoing in Close Quarters and Paco’s Story,” Journal of Research in Gender Studies 5(2): 232–278.

Received 30 September 2015 • Received in revised form 23 October 2015
Accepted 24 October 2015 • Available online 29 October 2015

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Polk State College, Lakeland

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