The Ugly American Duality and Identity

Because of the aftermath of World War II and the development of a xenophobic nature to the American identity, the ability for Americans to relate to foreign cultures is often stunted and without the flexibility required to successfully engage foreign states. William Lederer and Eugene Burdick wrote a book titled The Ugly American in which real events were related through disguised identities in relationship with the real histories of the American presence in Asia. The novel creates a duality between what exists and what it represents within many of the characters within the book. The 1950s created strange beasts out of the American public. On the one hand, great strides in both social order and in technology had created a world that was wildly prosperous, reinventing the belief in the American Dream and instilling within the people this sense that America was an ideological wonder that no other nation on Earth could rival. On the other hand, the paranoia that had become culturally imbedded into the public about the terror of the atom bomb manifested in insular creatures that lived in a bubble of both narcissistic superiorities that was coupled by xenophobic fears. The 1950s was a transitional period between the misogynistic, racially prejudiced period of the first two centuries within the United States to the profound changes in the freedom that would come within the 1960s and the criticisms that would lead to that burst of social change. The novel written by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick examines the strange cultural development of the period post-World War II in which an exploration of the nature of that dichotomy manifested in difficult foreign relations and impressions of arrogance in the American identity that is still an issue in today’s foreign relations.Ugly America is set in a fictional Asian country, Sarkhan, but is meant to be suggestive of Vietnam. One of the more powerful themes within the novel is found in how the American idealism becomes twisted as it is imposed upon other cultures.