The moral perspectives of the novel’s characters constitute a full range of choices and positions. Hence, just as there exist contrasting qualities among the physical characteristics of the air base and the nearby town, Ocanara, the characters’ multiple points of view create a good deal of tension among base personnel. Questions of morality surface in the forms of discussions, arguments, and debate concerning not only military dereliction of duty but marital fidelity and sexual conduct–and, what is most important, racial prejudice.
Among people on the base, the line between personal and professional relations is vague. And tensions that exist or develop between officers and enlisted personnel, between career men and temporary soldiers, between men and women and, what becomes most critical, between African Americans (a significant minority on the base) and whites are exacerbated by the base’s close working and living quarters and the oppressive heat.
Officers Club. Base facility for commissioned officers that is the scene of a clash between angry black airmen and military police in which racial tensions on the base come to the surface. The club is an effective embodiment of the ways in which reality intrudes on illusion, pretense, and dreams in Guard of Honor. In keeping with the racial segregation that pervaded the U.S. armed forces, entry into the club is restricted to white officers; however, the building itself is merely a dreary, cheap, concrete-block structure. Appropriately, it is painted white. The club is near lakes (which are really ponds) bearing names that allude to dream worlds and myths: Oberon and Thisbe. A swimming pool planned for the club was never built. The unfinished club is a kind of physical aborting.
Oleander Towers Hotel. Hostelry that represents not only the dashed hopes of the town of Ocanara but the confusion and instability–social and moral–of the air base personnel. Once expressive of Ocanara’s hopes for tourism, the hotel is now quarters for male officers from the air base. Like the base’s Officers’ Club, the hotel is stunted, even distorted; a fire has destroyed some of the building’s original structure. Its grounds are overgrown. A hodgepodge of architectural styles, the hotel is, in a word, shabby.
Lake Lalage. Florida lake near the base’s airstrip that is representative of the geography of central Florida, which has numerous lakes. The lake also serves as an emblem of military incompetence; Army Air Force commanders were warned that Ocanara was no place for parachute jumping because of its many lakes. The largest of the base’s lakes, Lalage is the scene of the novel’s critical moment: the drowning of seven paratroopers during a demonstration jump in a celebration staged for General Ira Beal. Ironically, the tragedy also is the occasion of the heroism of several black army engineers who try to save the drowning paratroopers.