Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 January 2022
This chapter explores how servicemen and veterans have conjured the Dear John through oral story-telling and life-writing. They have ascribed various motives to women who end relationships with men at war, and ventriloquized their voices. The paradigmatic Dear John is a note in which a girlfriend or wife announces not only the end of an old relationship but the beginning of a new one. Female disloyalty reverberates loudly through through this male vernacular tradition. But tragedy isn‘t the only register in which men recount heartbreak. Humorous yarns of recuperation from rejection, including inventive forms of payback, also abound. The sharing of Dear John anecdotes, jokes, and apocrypha has thus functioned as a vehicle for men‘s recovery and revenge. The chapter concludes, however, by giving women the last word. Even though some servicemen at war initiated breakups with their female partners, either conveying this news by letter or letting silence speak for itself, women have struggled to gain an audience for their stories of abandonment and betrayal. Wartime culture routinely held men and women to different standards of fidelity, as the Dear Jane‘s invisibility attests.