FARAH John Christian – 1043266 Wednesday, November 30th, 2016
ANG – 1023 Contemporary American Culture
War Literature Essay
In all of America’s contemporary history, no event has had such a major impact on mainstream and popular culture more than the Vietnam War. Despite having lived through tumultuous times and violent conflicts, the independence war against the British, the Civil war, and both World wars; the Vietnam war is still regarded by many as a quintessential moment in American culture. In fact, it was the first war to be extensively covered by the media, with headlines and articles being spun out of press rooms on a daily basis. The advent of the television set in American homes definitely facilitated the task of keeping all those who weren’t on the frontlines up to date with the army’s progression and developments in Vietnam. It was all anyone could talk about during the late sixties and well into the seventies. In fact, one could easily tell the extent of the Vietnam war’s impact on American society and culture simply by browsing through not only news articles and headlines, but also various art forms from that era. From novels, to lengthy magazine spreads, photography, songs, and even Hollywood blockbuster movies. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that such a topic in the arts was not restricted in the immediate post-war era, but can rather be found referenced in many works well into the 2000s and 2010s. Such works would focus on different aspects of the war: the daily lives of the soldiers on the frontlines, the atrocities, brutality, and bloodiness of the battles, the Vietnamese victims and innocent bystanders, psychological effects on soldiers and people back home alike, the aftermath of the war etc. Each work told a story and painted a picture of the war from a specific point of view. One novel, In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason, was written from the perspective of someone who has witnessed the war from the comfort of their living rooms through a TV set, while The Things They Carried, a collection of stories by war veteran Tim O’Brien, tell the tales and recounts of soldiers who were on the battlefields. Comparing these two novels would entail comparing both authors’ points of view on the war, discovering their struggles with not only the outside world and the drama unfolding around them, but also deep within themselves. Thus, one could ask oneself whether the effects of the war were the same on those who participated in the effort than they were on those who simply watched it unfold from home.
Both novels explored the topic of the Vietnam war, albeit form different points of view: that of a soldier versus that of an observer. By reading these two works, one could then easily determine that the war’s effects on soldiers are different than those of civilians at home. O’Brien’s The Things They Carried not only illustrates the disparity of psychological effects on soldiers ver...