Loss Of Soldier Identity Essay

2530 words - 10 pages

The Vietnam War was not a “pretty” war. Soldiers were forced to fight guerilla troops, were in combat during horrible weather, had to live in dangerous jungles, and, worst of all, lost sight of who they were. Many soldiers may have entered with a sense of pride, but returned home desensitized. The protagonist in Louise Erdrich’s “The Red Convertible,” is testament to this. In the story, the protagonist is a young man full of life prior to the war, and is a mere shell of his former self after the war. The protagonists in Tim O’Brien’s “If I Die in a Combat Zone,” and Irene Zabytko’s “Home Soil,” are also gravely affected by war. The three characters must undergo traumatic experiences. Only those who fought in the Vietnam War understand what these men, both fictional and in real life, were subjected to. After the war, the protagonists of these stories must learn to deal with a war that was not fought with to win, rather to ensure the United States remained politically correct in handling the conflict. This in turn caused much more anguish and turmoil for the soldiers. While these three stories may have fictionalized events, they connect with factual events, even more so with the ramifications of war, whether psychological, morally emotional, or cultural. “The Red Convertible,” and “Home Soil,” give readers a glimpse into the life of soldiers once home after the war, and how they never fully return, while “If I Die in a Combat Zone,” is a protest letter before joining the war. All three protagonists must live with the aftermath of the Vietnam War: the loss of their identity.
Erdrich’s “The Red Convertible,” and Zabytko’s “Home Soil,” both give a strong interpretation of two distinct reactions. In their powerful words of fiction, they reveal two soldiers losing their humanity because of the war, both desensitized. These two soldiers take a different approach at dealing with assimilating back to society after being in combat. Erdrich’s “The Red Convertible,” derives from a collected work of short stories that are interconnected to provide the readers with a better glimpse of Native American culture. This specific story tells the tale of two brothers, Lyman and Henry, who are separated by the Vietnam War. While both young men begin as fun individuals, who love life, after the war, our tragic protagonist Henry is extremely disturbed. Henry is profoundly changed and, ultimately, cannot assimilate successfully back into reality and society. To our protagonist, as well as other soldiers in real life, the war is something that cannot simply be forgotten. Lyman, having not fought in the war, attempts to intervene with his brother’s way of coping with the aftermath of Vietnam. Henry, as soon as he returns, is already a completely different person. Without any knowledge of what his brother saw in the war, Lyman is determined to help him. We come to know that as a universal truth, the families of the soldiers must suffer as well. They try to place the pieces...

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