Revelation Through Experience In Heart Of Darkness, Going After Cacciato, And The Things They Carri

3499 words - 14 pages

Revelation through Experience in Heart of Darkness, Going After Cacciato, and The Things They Carried

Foreign lands seemingly possessed by evil spirits as well as evil men, ammunition stockpiles, expendable extremities and splintered, non-expendable limbs carpeting the smoking husks of burnt-out villages, the intoxicating colors of burning napalm, and courage mixed with cowardice in the face of extreme peril. These are just a few examples of the spell-binding images presented in the novels read in the class entitled The Literature of War at Wabash College. These images and their accompanying stories do far more than fill the mind with fantastic ideas of war and heroism; they force the reader into uncomfortable situations thereby compelling the him or her to contemplate and evaluate his or her own personal ideas of valor, honor, decency, morality and mortality. While reading these stories, the reader is not only thrust inside the hearts and minds of the characters as he or she accompanies them upon their physical and/or mental journeys, but he or she is also forced to explore the darkest corners of being that exist inside every human being, male and female. Almost all of the novels are set during wartime and focus on the trials and tribulations faced by the common soldier. In his book The Great War and Modern Memory, Paul Fussell suggests that war literature can generally be broken down into three stages; the first being the innocence stage before the soldier goes to battle, the second being the loss of innocence precipitated by experiencing the horrors of war, and the third stage being the consideration stage where the soldier is removed from the war and contemplates his experiences. (Fussell).

The setting of war is the ultimate crucible for the soul and during wartime the cares and concerns of a soldier are boiled down and eliminated until all that remains are the most fundamental elements, such as: life, death, love, hatred, courage, cowardice, etc. During battle and wartime, in the experience stage, all of the frivolous emotions and concerns are melted away as this newly realized proximity to death brings a new appreciation for life and the truly important things. The things that truly matter to a man may vary and some of them, such as love, fear, comfort, and compassion, are intangible. And yet it is these intangible things and not direct orders from a commander that drive a man onward during war. Unfortunately, war not only reveals the innermost truths of a man’s character, it also destroys his capacity for leading a normal life upon his return home. Once a man has confronted his personal demons and come to some sort of understanding regarding his place in the universe and the inevitability of death, he has an extremely difficult time acclimating himself to civilian life once the war ends. Of all the novels read in War Literature, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and two Tim O’Brien novels:...

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