For Better Or For Worse Essay

1015 words - 5 pages

The war in Vietnam was the longest, and perhaps the most brutal, war in American history. There have been countless books, movies, and songs made in honor of the soldiers who lost their lives in Vietnam. In one particular novel called The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, the reader follows a platoon of soldiers throughout their service in the Vietnam War. It is through these accounts that the reader sees how huge of an impact the war had on everyone who was involved in it. In this particular collection of stories, the traumatizing events of the war caused radical changes of character in the soldiers who fought in it.
Change can first be seen in the novel when the protagonist, Tim O’Brien, is drafted to the war only one month after graduating from college. This causes him to undergo a change in morals and values. O’Brien initially believes that he is above the war, and says, “I was too good for this war. Too smart, too compassionate, too everything. It couldn’t happen. I was above it.” (41). Because of this mindset, O’Brien plans to evade the draft by fleeing to Canada. O’Brien has many issues regarding the war in Vietnam. For example, he also does not agree with the motives of America’s attacks on the Vietnamese people. He also thinks that the residents of his town do not fully understand the reasons for the war and therefore have no right to judge him on his decision not to go. Although, after an eye-opening stay with an elderly man that he meets on his way to Canada, O’Brien second-guesses his decision to run away. The man, Elroy Berdahl, shows him the meaning of honor and responsibility, which changes his whole outlook on what is right. O’Brien ends up changing his mind, not out of bravery, but out of “hot, stupid shame. [He] did not want people to think badly of [him]… [He] was ashamed of [his] conscience, ashamed to be doing the right thing.” (52). The experience with Berdahl humbles him. He alters his outlook and goes to war.
Another relevant account of change in the novel is when a young woman, Mary Anne Bell, comes to Vietnam to visit her boyfriend who is fighting with the platoon. The visit changes her view of the world, specifically the Vietnamese culture. Mary Anne’s transformation demonstrates the powerful nature of war. She first arrives looking like a normal young adult, dressed in a pink sweater, with a quiet personality. Like most Americans at that time, and much like O’Brien as well, she thinks that she is far away from the war and cannot be touched by it. But ultimately she is touched. Mary Anne gets sucked into Vietnam, learning more and more every day because “The war intrigued her. The land, too, and the mystery…She wanted to get a feel for how the people lived, what the smells and customs were.” (96). Becoming more independent, she begins...

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