Introduction & Overview of Born on the Fourth of July

Ron Kovic
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Born on the Fourth of July Summary & Study Guide Description

Born on the Fourth of July Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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Born on the Fourth of July is a candid memoir by Ron Kovic published in 1976, the year after the United States pulled out of Vietnam and ended the war. It details Kovic's journey from a stereotypical all-American boy during the 1950s to an eager soldier in Vietnam in the mid-1960s. It also explores his paralysis from the chest down as a result of combat in Vietnam, his later disillusionment with American policy towards Vietnam and the war, and his involvement in the anti-war movement.

Kovic's memoir begins with his birth on the most patriotic of dates, July 4, 1946, and his childhood in the years after World War II, inspired by stories of heroism and bravery from the war. The novel ends with the reclamation of personal power through Kovic's activism and desire for peace and for accountability from the American government. This trend of protest, anti-war sentiment, and the demand for civil rights and human equality, all of which question the authority of American institutions, was a significant one during the 1960s and 1970s. It changed the landscape of American public discussion and its international image.

The violence of Vietnam and the violence associated with repression of widespread student protests was plastered all over American and international television screens. The seeming security and social stability of the 1950s had been replaced by this clamor, and Kovic's memoir contributes to the era in a way that acknowledges that America was looking at itself and questioning its identity. Was America's image that of John Wayne, swaggering and always victorious? Or was America's image that of confusion and violence, full of broken men coming home from a questionable war?

Born on the Fourth of July became the prototypical Vietnam War memoir not from a news correspondent but from a man who had actually been deep in the battle. This memoir moved control of the portrayal of the war away from the political and military administration and placed it in the hands of those who had actually lost life and limb for God and country. In much the same way, the book also represents the tumultuous times of the 1960s and 1970s.

In 2005, Born on the Fourth of July was republished with a new introduction by the author. In the introduction, Kovic takes stock of the forty years that have passed since he left his parents' house to join the Marines. He laments the war in Iraq and considers it a repetition of the same mistakes of the Vietnam Era: "So many similarities, so many things said that remind me of that war thirty years ago which left me paralyzed for the rest of my life." He also calls for a return of the spirit of protest and caring, a spirit he credits for his sense of the world's beauty and life's preciousness. For readers interested in first-hand accounts of the Vietnam War, the protest culture of the 1960s and 1970s, and even the conditions to which Vietnam veterans returned after the war, Kovic's memoir proves a valuable resource.

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