Disappearance into the Land
‘I know it sounds far-out,’ he’d tell us, ‘but it’s not like impossible or anything. We all heard plenty of wackier stories...When she came in through the wire that night, I was right there, I saw those eyes of hers, I saw how she wasn’t even the same person no more. What’s so impossible about that? She was a girl, that’s all. I mean, if it was a guy, everybody’d say, Hey, no big deal, he got caught up in the Nam shit, he got seduced by the Greenies." (O’Brien 106-107).
War is not just a battle of one group of men versus another. Rather, it is a fight between Man and Nature. A desperate battle for survival. Will the land take you, or will you survive the horrors that lie in the darkness of night? This idea is one that is explored in Tim O’Brien’s novel The Things They Carried. This is a battle of Man vs. Nature, not only for physical survival, but one for emotional, mental, and spiritual survival. It is played out in many ways, and the attacks that are made against man are played out in various subtle manners. From a mere blending of man into nature, to the heart of the man which is lost, to the extreme of someone becoming a part of it, so lost in the war, and in the land. The battle is always fought, and man never comes away from it unscathed.
One manner in which this war is waged is in man’s blending into nature. This becomes a means of survival for the soldier in the field-- a physical blending into the land on which you wage war. In "Ambush", the character Tim O’Brien tells us about how his platoon was hiding, waiting for their enemy, "The whole platoon was there, spread out in the dense brush along the trail." (132). Then, describing the situation further, as an enemy soldier approached, he writes, "In a way, it seemed, he was part of the morning fog." (132). This was his enemy, coming out of the fog, using this feature of Nature as much as the others use the dense brush to hide themselves. A more visual image of this can be seen in the movie The Thin Red Line. As they march up the hill, the camera stays low to the ground, brushing against the grass of Guadalcanal. The men become a part of that hill, and they are safe, until they stand up, leaving the shield that nature is offering them. Additionally, in the film Enemy at the Gates, describing the battle for Stalingrad in World War II, this theme is visualized. This is an urban setting, but the same principle is applied. When Vassili is hiding in the streets, he blends with it, and the ability to distinguish man from construct becomes almost impossible. He even says, "I am stone", which further emphasizes this. In these cases, as in The Things They Carried, the land is used as a shield, as defensive mechanism to protect. Man blends in with Nature, and it becomes difficult to distinguish one from the other. The line between what is human and what is not begins to blur in looking to nature for protection. Then that line is blown to pieces, so you can’t...