A Soldier’s War

2706 Words11 Pages
Up until World War I “descriptions of war in America are confined primarily to generals’ account . . . leaving much of the war’s confusion and chaos to the imagination” (Smith 11). American writers rarely considered war as a viable literary subject, until Stephen Crane’s civil war novel, The Red Badge of Courage. Despite Crane having never been in a war zone his publication is considered among the first to capture the potential of the battlefield as a literary backdrop. Further developing the war novel genre, Ernest Hemingway adds what Smith describes as a “journalistic style” to a more modern skeptical outlook on war. Just as Hemingway’s work provides graphic detail of World War I, Tim O’Brien’s novels “[have] become the Vietnam…show more content…
One example of this is in the chapter “On the Rainy River,” when the narrator, also named Tim O’Brien,3 attempts to dodge the draft by heading to Canada. The novelist sates “I never did any of these things, but I thought about it . . . if I were to tell you the literal truth about that summer [it] would be that I played a lot of golf and worried a lot about the draft. But that’s a crummy story. It doesn’t make you feel anything” (qtd. in Moore). Though “On the Rainy River,” is not “real,” the effect of the raw emotion in the chapter is certainly authentic. Relying on the principle of eliciting emotion, O’Brien simplifies the foreign concept of war in the fabricated details of his narrative. In this way, O’Brien finds fiction is sometimes paradoxically more real than actuality. The Vietnam War, O’Brien proclaims, consists of contradictory truths: “it can be argued, for instance, that war is grotesque . . . war is also [beautiful]” (O’Brien 81). He further summarizes this paradox, asserting, “war is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War is what makes you a man; war makes you dead” (O’Brien 81). The contradictory relationship between fiction and actuality explored throughout the text both reflects and expresses the reoccurring inconsistencies of the Vietnam War. As another means to demonstrate the war’s inherent
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