Troy in America: Soldier Suicide in American War Literature

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats



Troy in America: Soldier Suicide in American War Literature attempts to illuminate how a war mentality forces an acceptance of mortality that not only brings out the irrationality of life itself, but also makes suicide more thinkable. This dissertation is therefore about the different reasons soldiers and veterans depicted in literature choose to die by suicide, but also those who consider it and choose not to. Troy in America draws on examples of suicide found in Ancient Greek literature to contextualize similar genres of suicide depicted in American war literature. Four Ancient Greek warriors suffer from different forms of suicidal behavior: Achilles’s grief, Odysseus’s despair, Ajax’s honor, and Philoctetes’s pain. Each hero’s suicidality is characterized by unique features that forms a discrete archetype that endures and informs characters found in literature about the American Civil War to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The authors of the texts analyzed in Troy in America appear to be in substantial agreement that the experience of combat can be so troubling that, for some of its participants and veterans, suicide seems to be an answer. For many survivors, the end of war does not mark the end of their suffering. War removes its participants from society in an effort to preserve it. War thus becomes, in effect, a trip to the Underworld; a liminal experience where the social order becomes available for inspection. As a result, coming home can be as difficult emotionally as combat. After experiencing the irrationality of war and gaining insight into the irrationality of life, the warrior must change in order to return to society. But some do not change; instead, they choose to end their lives.






Portis, Stoney (2021). Troy in America: Soldier Suicide in American War Literature. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.