The Vietnam War was considered a true fight during 1945 through 1975, which was about 30 years of bloodshed and was considered the longest war that the United States has ever fought. This war was one of the first wars to be broadcasted on television in people’s homes. People then started to pay more attention to this war, than the previous ones. The public couldn’t swallow the realities of war, such as dying children, U.S. citizens being drifted one at a time, murders, and other horrors! Around the Vietnam era, many people started to react to this, and truly began to think about the war. The poem called Norman Morrison, by Adrian Mitchell, and the excerpt “The Man I Killed” in the novel, The Things They Carried, by Tim O’ Brien both show the breakdown of individuals under the stresses of the modern world – which in this case would be the Vietnam War.
The poem Norman Morrison is a poem about a 31 year-old Quaker, with a family. His family consisted of himself, his wife, and his 3 children. He thought of a plan, where he would commit suicide “in the white heart of Washington” (21), in order to protest the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. In other words, Morrison wanted to commit this act of self-immolation in front of the Pentagon, in order for citizens and everyone else to see him and understand his point of this. Soon after thinking through his plan, Morrison poured petrol over himself, and ended his life. “He simply burned away his clothes. His passport, his pink-tinted skin. Put on a new skin of flame and became Vietnamese” (23 – 27). He to, like the general public could not take anymore of the mass murders, and bloodshed, so he took his own life and became a symbol of peace for humanity.
Furthermore, “The Man I Killed,” shows an example of breakdown through the eyes of American-soldier Tim O’Brien as well. Tim, and his friends Azar and Kiowa came upon a young Vietnamese corpse, which he had killed. In this excerpt, the “helpful” Azar pointed out that Tim “…you laid him out like Shredded fuckin’ Wheat” (125), and adds, “I’m just saying the truth. Like Oatmeal” (125). Tim was then completely focused on the dead body, and reflected on what he had done to this man. He thinks hard after Kiowa questions him about trading places with this man, but did not respond. Broken down, like Morrison, Tim soon gains guilt in his heart, but looking at the man’s physical features and the flowers growing on the road, he finds safety from guilt. Throughout the rest of the excerpt, his silence demonstrates that nothing can erase the simple facts of life and death, and shows how broken down Tim truly is in his mind.
In conclusion, The Vietnam War caused a lot of trouble for the U.S. and the people involved with it. Poem Norman Morrison and the excerpt “The Man I Killed,” from The Things They Carried, both show a great example of the breakdowns of individuals under the stresses of the modern world. The authors of these magnificent pieces can really get a reader’s attention and show how these characters reacted to the Vietnam War, and showed how spine chilling it is to be around this era.
Courtney from Study Moose
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