Date of Completion


Embargo Period



myth, aviator, Saint-Exupéry, Roy, Gary, nation, heroism, masculinity, France, ambivalence

Major Advisor

Roger Celestin

Associate Advisor

Eliane DalMolin

Associate Advisor

Carole Edwards

Field of Study

Literatures, Languages, and Cultures


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


The traditional image of wartime aviators in French culture is an idealized, mythical notion that is inextricably linked with an equally idealized and mythical notion of nationhood. The literary works of three French author-aviators from World War II – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Jules Roy, and Romain Gary – reveal an image of the aviator and the writer that operates in a zone between reality and imagination. The purpose of this study is to delineate the elements that make up what I propose is a more complex and even ambivalent image of both individual and nation. Through these three works – Pilote de guerre (Flight to Arras), La Vallée heureuse (The Happy Valley), and La Promesse de l’aube (Promise at Dawn) – this dissertation proposes to uncover not only the figures of individual narratives, but also the figures of “a certain idea of France” during a critical period of that country’s history. The relation between these two intersecting narratives – the individual’s and the nation’s - is a matter of overlapping images based on a cultural past as they are viewed in the present. These include the notions of masculinity, heroism, and nationhood, each of which is a product of a cultural heritage and an imagined self derived from that heritage.