The involvement of the American government in the war judged by critics slash historians as taking the nature of colonialism renders the bulk of American literature on Vietnam War as largely colonial in structure, content and focus. Michael Adas in his article, "A Colonial War: The United States’ Occupation of Vietnam" argues and historically proves the colonial inclination and interest of America in Vietnam claiming that America veered away from its earlier anti-colonial position under Roosevelt then proceeded to support the continuance of French colonization in Indochina ( 29). In Adas’s own words:
In the next decade, three American presidents presided over an escalating political and military involvement in Indochina that had most of the main attributes of colonial interventions in the preceding centuries of European global domination. Defying the decidedly anti-colonial rhetoric of the Roosevelt years, they committed the United States to a massive colonial occupation in a postcolonial era. (29)
Since the Vietnam War is the result of America’s efforts to participate in the colonization endeavor of Europe in an era of decolonization, the subsequent literary product is essentially and categorically colonial. A colonial literature tackles and examines the issues arising from Imperialism such as the moral dilemma(s) of the colonizer or the imperialist as shown in the essay "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell. In the essay Orwell recalled how as a sub-divisional officer of the town he shot an elephant in Burma to earn the approval of the Burmese and to "avoid looking a fool" (Hunt &. Perry 295) even though he thought it wrong to deliberately kill the beast. George Orwell’s personal essay demonstrates how an imperialist system morally confuses the colonizer or the member of the colonizing nation who believes that imperialism is "an evil thing" (289) but on the one hand because of a sense of nationality is forced to play his or her part as the oppressor.
One of the defining characteristics and key quality of a colonial literature is its denunciation of colonialism and its negative impact both on the colonizer and the colonized. It is highly critical of the system of imperialism, noting the impartiality in the relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed with the oppressor receiving most of the gains while the other party suffers and gets traumatized. Colonial literature discusses the social, economic and psychological implications or consequences of colonialist experience.
In structure, colonial literature is "characterized by a strong sense of ambiguity: uncertainty about the morality of imperialism about the nature of humanity, and about the continuing viability of European civilization" ("Colonial Literature" 1). Through its form, colonial literature exposes the contradictions, paradoxes and ironies of imperialism.
American Literature of Vietnam War is Colonial in theme, content, structure and focus
A.) Robert Olen Butler (The Alleys of Eden) 1981
This fictional narrative centers on Clifford Wilkes, an American soldier trapped in Saigon at the closing of the Vietnam War. In part, it is a romantic tale with Lanh, a Vietnamese lass, serving as his love interest and partner for nearly five years. Clifford’s love for Lanh is keeping him from seeking refuge in the United