What is courage? What is it that makes a hero? These are a few questions that are presented by the main character Paul in "Speaking of Courage", and Fred Collins in Mystery of Heroism. Paul and Collins were in different wars, different times, different places, but war is still war and tortures a man for the rest of his life. They saw their friends get killed right in front of them. Men became machines and their machinery became their closest friend. They live everyday in fear.
Collins is a private caught in battle in the civil war, and all he wants is a drink of water. His comrades made fun of him for how thirsty he was and his resentment towards the ridicule pushed him to risk his life for a sip of water. He takes a stupid risk and is labeled a Hero. Is that really what makes a hero? Stupidity and peer pressure? Even Collins at the end of the story questions why he was being recognized as a hero. ...view middle of the document...
Paul comes back and feels alienated from everybody. He doesn't even feel he can speak with his own father, so he pretends and imagines a conversation with him. All his friends are gone, either dead in the war or married and moved away. The only thing that gives him some level of comfort is his driving around the lake in his dad's truck as he did before the war with his friends. He's in constant search for someone to speak with to pass on his war stories and give his mind some relief. He pulls up to a diner and again imagines a conversation with the waitress. Paul got medals in the war, but none were for valor. He feels a lack of achievement as during his imaginary conversation with his father telling him about the time he almost got the Silver Star. He watched his friends die and he is still going on with life after such a traumatic event, just the ability to go on in life shows courage. You don't need a medal to tell you what kind of person you are.
Paul and Collins both have traumatic experiences. They went though war all though they are in different times and places they still have the same effects and went through the same fears. Paul wants to prove his courage and thinks that a medal is the only way to do so. The scars of battle that are on his mind and body are proof enough of his courage. Collins wants to prove to his comrades that he is a capable man and even though he's a private he can accomplish great things. His attempt to resemble a hero are crushed as he passes up a dieing man and he'll be haunted for the rest of his life by guilt for doing so, even though he went back, he originally wasn't planning to do so.
Recognition is overrated. Paul doesn't get any recognition for his courage and Collins gets recognized as a hero when he was a coward. They only person they need to impress is themselves, they know what they have accomplished or failed to accomplish. They shouldn't have to play a charade for the entertainment of an audience, but be happy with what they got.