The Land of Smiles was quite a recent composition at the time. Franz Lehár originally named the work The Yellow Jacket, but it was not a success and he revised it and came up with the new title in time for its premier in 1929.
The bittersweet romantic work is set largely in China, and the title refers to the Chinese custom of smiling whatever the situation.
Nat Turner, the leader of a slave revolt in 1831, had a great influence on Styron, so much so that he wrote a novel about him: The Confessions of Nat Turner.
The revolt in the Deep South rocked the United States to its core. It was the first organized movement of slaves in America, and like the revolt in the Warsaw Ghetto it had significant ramifications for all parties involved.
The United States operates a Selective Service System requiring all men between the ages of 18 and 25 to register as potential recruits for military service. They are then classified in terms of their suitability for military service. For example, 1-A means that they are available for unrestricted military service. Nathan's category, 4-F, means he is not acceptable for military service of any kind.