Rumor Of War Summary of Symbolism Presented by ‘Vietnam/War’ In reading Philip Caputo’s book, A Rumor of War, I discovered that he strongly presented a similar idea to that of Tim O’Brien in his book, The Things They Carried. This is the idea that war can not bring or cause good, it only produces varying amounts of evil. Philip Caputo volunteered for the Marines because he was looking for a way to prove himself, and he saw the Marines as an honorable way to do so. He also originally saw the war as glorious. However, after he became a lieutenant, he soon found out that war is not as glorious as it is made to seem.
He found himself fighting in the war not for the defense of his ideals or morals, but rather for his reputation, or as he puts it, I was ready to die for considerably less [than medals], for a few favorable remarks in a fitness report. Words. (35). Tim O’Brien shares this feeling that war brings about only varying amounts of evil. He shows this in his book through his vignettes about the brutality of war, and his lack of vignettes about heroism. In fact, he believes that heroism cannot exist in war, because no good can come from war.
In this piece that I created, ‘Vietnam/War’, I drew mainly on the work of Philip Caputo as the basis for the imagery. He describes a scene from an officer’s club: Murph McCloy and I were on the terrace of the Officers’ Club, drinking beer and admiring the view. The club stood atop a high hill, and the scene below was straight out of South Pacific, lacking only a lovesick Ezio Pinza singing to Mary Martin. A turquoise lagoon shimmered in the sun, mahogany-skinned fishermen paddled skiffs across its still surface, and beyond the barrier reef the bright expanse of the East China Sea stretched to the horizon. Content, we lay back in our deck chairs, the sun warm on our faces and the beer icy-cold in our hands. P.J., this sure is gracious living, McCloy said. The telephone rang, and Sammy, the club’s Okinawan manager, popped out onto the terrace.
Any offasuh from the One-Three Battalion, he paged, call your OD right now! (40) This phone call officially put Philip Caputo’s battalion into the thick of the war. In this piece, I have the background of a beautiful sunset on the water, a rather serene setting, seen through the leaves of trees. This picture is split by the fading of color from the upper-left to black and white in the lower-right. The lower-right side of my piece represents the starkness and desolation of war, the only color in it being a deep blood-red (red and black being traditionally symbolic colors of evil). The color side of this piece represents the beauty of Vietnam, as it was a very picturesque country with beautiful lagoons and scenery. But at the same time, it held the evil of the war that was going on within its borders.
Looking closely, it is noticeable that the transition between the color and black and white sides is not a clear, sudden transition. The Vietnam War itself was uclear. Many people did not know who the real enemy was. People both supported and hated the war at the same time. It is also noticeable that there are grey edges creeping onto the leaves of the trees in the colorful side, but that there is not any color creeping into the black and white side. This is symbolic of the idea that there is no good that can come of war, but rather that war produces evil. It is also symbolic of the fact that the war will forever mark Vietnam as a place of dread and death for some people, so that its beauty is forever marred.
Vietnam recollections relive the war’s surreal horror THE THINGS THEY CARRIED Written by Tim O’Brien. Houghton Mifflin/Seymour Lawrence. 273 pages, $19.95. By MARK WEBSTER THE VIETNAM WAR has produced a new generation of writers concerned with the American experience in Vietnam. Primarily, they are former foot soldiers who were down in the mud and mess, and who are now trying to write about what they saw and felt.
The best of these authors include Larry Heinemann, Philip Caputo, and Tim O’Brien. Tim O’Brien’s new book, The Things They Carried, is a highly personal collection of stories. The stories concern Tim O’Brien, a soldier 21-years-old patrolling Quang Ngai Province in Vietnam in 1968, and Tim O’Brien, a writer 43-years-old remembering the past. This is a work of fiction and, unlike a recent work (Philip Roth’s Deception), O’Brien does not make himself the main character in his book simply for effect but because, as he states, I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.
The surreal horror of the war in Vietnam can live again only in stories. The stories in Vietnam are, at the same time, sharply immediate and filtered through memory. The first story, which lends its name to the book, starts as a list of the equipment that the average American foot soldier carried into battle. The list becomes longer in the end and encompasses the hopes, dreams, and fears that each man carried. The impression is one of weight, dragging them into the mud.
Another story, How to Tell a True War Story, is an indictment of the idea of war as an honorable pursuit: A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made victim of a very old and terrible lie. The soldiers that O’Brien marches with are fleshed out in these stories. He describes the camaraderie that develops between men who face death together and the callousness that appears when death takes a buddy. The men laugh and joke over a body while waiting for a chopper to take it away.
A soldier methodically shoots bullets into a baby water buffalo — without killing it — after a friend dies. Another soldier becomes paralyzed when he kills a lone Viet Cong wandering through the jungle. A friend sinks and disappears completely into a muddy field that is a nearby village’s toilet. These scenes have the hallucinatory power of snapshots etched into memory. Some of the stories don’t occur in Vietnam.
They tell of O’Brien’s brush with courage as he almost flees to Canada; of his trying to explain his obsession with Vietnam to his nine-year-old daughter; and of the aftermath, the return home. The best of these is Speaking of Courage, which chronicles the lost, aimless feeling that a vet has when he returns to his home town and the guilt he feels for not saving a buddy in the war. In a stunning follow-up called Notes, the author’s character persona turns the story into an anguished confession. And in the final story, The Lives of the Dead, a nine-year-old O’Brien learns the power of imagination in bringing a dead friend to life. This will have an eerie echo 34 years later when the writer brings to life his dead platoon buddies and let’s a young Vietnamese soldier pass by instead of taking his life. One or two of the stories have the magical realism that O’Brien used with such success in his award-winning Going After Cacciato.
These stories don’t really work in the realist framework that the author has established. However, The Things They Carried has the coherence and building narrative power of a novel. While uneven at times, it maintains the theme ** of dreamlike and painful remembrance throughout. Copyright 1990 by The Tech. All rights reserved. This story was originally published on Friday, April 27, 1990. Volume 110, Number 22 The story was printed on page 8. This article may be freely distributed electronically, provided it is distributed in its entirety and includes this notice, but may not be reprinted without the express written permission of The Tech.
Write to [email protected] for additional details. Other stories in this issue Necessity is a rather slippery concept in terms of definition. The notion of what an individual requires for his or her survival varies with the particular situation at any given time. These needs may intensify or become distorted as one finds himself in an increasingly dangerous situation, particularly a life-and-death one such as war. Such dire circumstances may provoke in an average person feelings of extreme vulnerability, and the desire to hold on to all that he can, not unlike a child’s instinct to grasp the nearest object in his search for comfort while in the throes of anxiety. Despite the fact that these necessary items or ideas that he clings to may impair or even threaten to destroy the person, abandoning them may seem impossible.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien displays necessity in its destructive aspects as well as its sustaining ones. It thoroughly examines the burdens of the soldiers and the effects these burdens have on a man in a life-threatening situation. But in his examination of these things that the men carry, O’Brien poses a puzzling question: do these necessities that the men carry on their backs and in their minds keep them alive, or lead to their own demise? In The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien examines the numerous facets of the concept of necessity and questions how truly necessary certain things really are. The most obvious need of the men in the story is the supplies that they carry that will keep them physically alive. O’Brien makes this clear by listing every detail and accounting for every ounce of food, clothing and weaponry.
He also establishes the importance by listing those items first in the story. The things they carried were largely determined by necessity, he states on page 2, and he goes on to discuss rations, water, defensive clothing, and necessary sleep gear (2-3). But ironically, in this paragraph he also includes items such as Ted Lavender’s six or seven ounces of premium dope, Rat Kiley’s comic books, and Kiowa’s Bible and his distrust of the white man (2-3). This indicates the importance of these things to the men, no matter how ironic that may be, because obviously illicit drugs and comics are not necessary to the common man for physical survival purposes. But this irony suggests the desperation of the situation that the men faced, a situation that could place comics on the same level as food.
Perhaps the emptiness that the men felt drove them to think that they had to carry all of these extra items to …