Thursday, October 17, 2013

Speaking of Courage

The thing that stood out to me the most in Speaking of Courage was how Norman was stuck in a very materialistic mindset. He bring up the death of Kiowa, but not in the way that we would expect. He is constantly going on about if he had pushed through the stench he could have saved Kiowa, but not because he feels guilty for his death, but because he could have won the Silver Star. The way he regards his comrade's life, his friend's life, in such a disrespectful manned was surprising to me.

When I read this chapter I couldn’t help but to be reminded of a story that I read a while ago. I forget the title but it went something like this. A man has a mental breakdown, and no matter what his family does they can’t get him to speak about it. They eventually call in a physiologist to talk to him. Eventually he begins to speak. The first time he talks he goes on to talk about how during World War 1 his friend, Mac, died to mustard gas. He goes on for a few more minutes talking about bravery and his home on the river before the psychologist leaves. The next day the psychologist returns and asks the man about Mac. The man responds with a story about how he died of carbon monoxide working in an iron smelter. The doctor then asks which of his friends died in the war. The man replies that it was his friend Kevin who died in the war.  Now this story has more in common with Speaking of Courage than at first glance. Those who suffer from PTSD can have hallucinations, things that seem like they are real but are actually not. In Speaking of Courage Norman lost both of his friends to similar circumstances. Add in the consequences of the war and it becomes difficult for Norman to tell reality from not. To Norman, Kiowa and Max are connected. The similar circumstances of death may have crated a link in Norman’s brain. When he talks about saving Kiowa to win the Silver Star, he may be thinking that by saving Kiowa he saves Max someone who often talked about God as an idea, a goal to strive towards, a silver star to reach for.

Just like the man in the story did not wish to open up about what happened, Norman avoids telling his stories. But where the man eventually opened up, Norman remains hesitant, letting made up discussions substitute for actual conversation. However what’s not to say that to Norman these conversations eventually become reality, that he viewed what he created as being true? What’s not to say that, much like the story of the man, he made something up? In the end Norman Bowker imagined a different reality, a place where it was easy for him to begin speaking of courage.

More information on PTSD here

In The Field

Caroline Orr

In The Field

            Nothing throughout this entire book reminds me more of my experience of being a “Marina” at Camp Longhorn than this chapter. At Camp Longhorn, the age group of boys and girls going into the ninth grade participate in this program.  The Marine/Marina program is based off of the military. The founder of Camp Longhorn, Tex Robertson, a war veteran himself, started the program back in the 1940’s to teach older campers about respect and the rules of military and the feeling of being in a war. As crazy as it sounds, those three weeks of summer camp were some of the most challenging days of my life. When I look back on all my years at Camp Longhorn, I remember my Marina year as by far my best and most rewarding because of the lessons I learned and all that I had achieved.
            On a random morning within the first week of camp, before wakeup, the Marina officers bombard the marina cabins, (which float on the water) while screaming at the marinas and throwing them into the lake. Once in the water, the marinas have to swim to a far away ladder, get out and then sprint to the field where there are more officers waiting and pegging the Marinas with ice. Once all the Marinas have all arrived at the field and the officers have forced the marinas into perfectly straight and ordered lines, the officers go over ground rules and teach the marinas the salutes for each officer. Each year, the Marinas forced to wear certain outfits and hairstyles to ensure that they look as unattractive as possible at all times of the day through out the entire term, as they sing songs (for the rest of the camps entertainment), do team building activities, and help serve the rest of camp.
            Going to summer camp in the blazing hot mid-July heat for three weeks without air-conditioning and electronics, is not exactly the same thing as being drafted into the cold Vietnam War. However, these two situations both share the common factor of being sent away for a period of time to an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people that become your family within 48 hours. In addition to this minor similarity, my experiences as a Marina resembled some of moments in this chapter. For instance, through out the term we would constantly make jokes about anything and everything, from how we looked like aliens with our two rats nest pigtails on the side of our face, to the ridiculous skits we acted out, in order to make light of the situation. Azar does this too when he says “like those old cowboy movies. One more redskin bites the dirt, (158)”. In this moment, Azar is making an insensitive joke about Kiowa’s death in order to make light of the misery in the situation.
Another similarity between my camp experience and what the soldiers are going through in this chapter is extreme exhaustion. During my Marina year, we had nighttime raids that kept us up late into the night. On top of that, we were forced to sprint everywhere around camp. Just as the soldiers in the chapter “had not sleep during the night, not even for a few moments (158)”, we were sleep deprived. Lastly, and most importantly, one of the most anticipated Marine/Marina traditions is the Marine/Marina mud.  I could directly relate to the feeling the soldiers had while they were digging through the mucky mud in search of Kiowa’s body when we had to preform skits in a pit of deep stinky thick mud for the entire camp. However, instead of rain we had officers spraying us with water hoses that caused mud to fly through the air making it almost impossible for us to open our eyes.
            In life, there are some experiences that seem unbearable at the time, like war, but when you reflect on them, you realize they have changed you forever. For me, Marina year at camp was one of those experiences.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Speaking of Courage

The chapter,  Speaking of Courage, described  Norman Bowker as a timid man. Whenever he has the urge or need to say what's on his mind, he forbids to speak it aloud; to anyone. This story related to another story called, Perks of Being a Wallflower.  The main character, Charlie, is a boy who tries to start off on a right note in high school, but he is going to need to give himself a good boost because he does not like the feeling of being alone.
      Norman starts off the story by driving around a lake in his fathers neighborhood, thinking of his past. As he is driving, he thinks about somewhat morose things such as Max Arnold, who drowned in that lake and also thinks of his high school girlfriend Sally, who is now married. Also Norman mentions the death of Kiowa, who was left being in a sewage mud pit. Norman was there and could've helped him, but he couldn't stand the stench so he left him behind. Ever since, Norman has felt a bit of guilt for leaving man behind for something somewhat selfish. In the beginning of the story, Norman is mostly thinking of his father, and what pragmatic approach his father expects of him to come home and receive these medals. Norman lists all the seven medals that he won to his father, but one that Norman really wanted to mention was the Silver Star, and how he almost got it. Norman than remembered how is father never seemed to care what Norman had in mind, the television seemed more important to him especially the baseball game that night. To me, that results the way Norman has the lack of confidence to speak up.
      In Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie is a fifteen year old boy who starting off high school and wants to make a good mark of the year. Recently in the story, his friend had just committed suicide, which relates to also the death of Max Arnold who was Norman's friend. However, Charlie feels alone ever since the incident occurred and can't figure out a way to open himself up. He especially cannot afford to start of his high school year as a "no-body". Sadly, that is how it begins, he feels that no one notices him or even wants to make word with him; he feels alone.
         In these two stories, courage is eventually established in these characters own ways. Norman and Charlie share a death experience that affected them and their ways to elaborate themselves. Norman seems to mention a few of the phrases repetitively, "...would've said..."" ...could've said..." and "...couldn't say...". Norman seems to show hesitant when he uses these phrases, and seems as if he is a coward. However, this seems to be the reason he blames himself for not even trying, because he feels that no one would mind. Now, Charlie is also hesitant because he wants to make sure to take the right step. Charlie learns how to adapt into a friendship with people and does it! He meets his two new closest friends, Sam and Patrick, who show Charlie their ways of bold and fearless characteristics.
      As this chapter ends, we notice the very first sentence in the following chapter, Notes, that Norman Bowker hung himself with a jump-rope tied to a water pipe. Reading that shocked me and made it seem implausible to realize, but it showed how much it really got to Norman's mind and took charge in his actions.
Valentine, Aoife. Film Review: Perks of Being a Wallflower. Digital image. The University Observer. N.p., 2 Oct. 2012. Web. 16 Oct. 2013.

Field Trip

          Have you ever had a special location in which you observed so many meaningful experiences? While reading the story, "Field Trip" I realized I can relate my own life, and my own meaningful experiences to this chapter. In this chapter, O'Brian discusses a field in which many personal events occurred, including the location of Kiowa's death, and the casual waiting around that often went down during the war. On page 174, the text says "...bumpy dirt roads and a hot August sun, ending up at an empty field on the edge of nowhere...". I can relate this field to a field that has been significant to me in my life. I, like O'Brian and his daughter had to drive what seemed like a long, vigorous drive, out to a big field three times a week. This field was off of Campbell Road, a bumpy, busy road. I drove to it three times a week to practice soccer with my Albion Hurricane's club soccer team. I created many good and bad memories at this field, for over a span of five years. O'Brian also created many memories on his field. He watched as people came and went, likewise, I watched as people joined the soccer club and left the soccer club. I became best friends with many of my teammates, as well as enemies with the players on the opposing soccer teams. I, like O'Brian, painfully had to watch as some of my best friends went down. I watched girls break their arms, ankles, feet, and legs. I watched girls get concussions and I sadly waited for their return. There were even girls on my soccer team who would have to leave  soccer for many months due to scary surgeries that they had to have.Watching people come and go was definitely sad for both O'Brian and myself, however, you eventually begin to get over it, and you tuck away all your feelings, expecting that one day, they will all come back again. When O'Brian came back to the field, he was expecting all of his tucked away feelings to come out, and for all of his memories from the war times to flow back into his mind. However, O'Brian is mind blown when he steps foot on to the field and just feels pure awkwardness. He could see physically where memories had happened, but he couldn't feel the way he felt the first time it all happened. He felt awkward thinking about the fact that memories that were so significant to him, had happened exactly where he was looking, but nothing was there now, it felt different, and it was hard for him to believe that the memories he had, actually occurred in this metamorphosed field before his eyes. I can definitely relate to this feeling of confusedness and emptiness, even though you're in the middle of a highly-personal, notable location. O'Brian's feelings were shown in text on page 176 "Now, looking out at the field, I wondered if it was all a mistake. Everything was too ordinary. A quiet sunny day, and the field was not the field I remembered. I pictured Kiowa's face, the way he used to smile, but all I felt was the awkwardness of remembering." I also remember specific memories just like O'Brian specifically remembers Kiowa smiling. I remember specific drills that we did. I remember things that people said to me. I remember exact locations that I talked to certain people. I remember certain thoughts that I had during a specific dribbling drill, in a specific location, and even what the climate was. I remember joking with my soccer trainer, Greg, and saying "Greg! It's snowing!" when in reality it was just really cold and rainy... I remember driving up to the soccer fields with my soccer carpool, in my mom's car. We were blasting the song "Fit but you Know it", and Greg started dancing to it! I remember being in a huddle with my soccer team, I was standing in between Giuliana and Adama, and I remember our trainer, Danny, speaking fondly of Elvis Presley. All these memories joined together made the soccer field off of Campbell road a very special field to me. But, like O'Brian, every time I return there, I get the feeling of awkwardness, like things have changed, and something is just not right. Relating the chapter "Field Trip" to my own life helped me farther understand this chapter. Relating the two memories aided me in digging deeper into the details of our two significant locations, specifically our fields.

These two soccer fields are very different. One is very crowded and is creating memories... the other is empty and waiting for someone to come back and replenish their memories.

Good Form

Good Form
When you are writing a story, you can change things in the story to present yourself a certain way. You can invent yourself. In Good Form, Tim O’Brien talks about how he writes his stories. He goes on to talk about how he watched a man get killed and how guilty he felt even though he didn’t do anything. He then describes how the man looked, then said he was making all of this up. This is what I don’t really understand. O’Brien contradicts himself a lot throughout the chapter. First, he says he watched the man get killed. He describes all these things about him then says it’s all a lie. Then he describes him again with lots of detail and says he killed him. I have no idea which of the stories in this chapter are true. All of these contradictions make it very hard to analize what O’brien is trying to say. If I had to guess, I would say that he is trying to show that even if the stories aren’t true, you still get a picture of what it is like for a soldier to kill and witness death.
In The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien lies a lot to present himself as a good and innocent person. He made up this story about him witnessing the man get killed because he didn’t want to live with killing another person. He also lies to his daughter because he doesn’t want her to look at him as a killer. This is something I noticed often throughout the book.
I connected Good Form to sports. Often in sports, especially when kids play, people try to make it look like it wasn’t their fault when they make a mistake. They try to blame one of their teammates because they don't want to be the one who makes the mistake. This connects to when Tim O’Brien says he witnessed someone get killed but then says he is the one that killed him.
This was a very confusing story that had a lot of twists to it. It took me a couple of times reading it to get an understanding of what I thought it meant.


In the Field

In his novel The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien uses the field and Kiowa’s body as metaphors to reflect how Kiowa’s death emotionally affects the platoon. Specifically in “In the Field,”  O’Brien uses metaphors to draw connections from the environment and Kiowa’s corpse to the soldier’s feelings.

O’Brien describes the field in a downcast manner to reflect the morose sentiment of his unit. The morning after Kiowa’s death, the soldiers “began tramping side by side through the deep muck of the shit field” (O’Brien 155). The thickness and filth of the water holds the soldiers back; they are physically burdened traveling through their environment. However, the choice usage of “tramping” suggests the field is literally holding them back from moving on, just as the soldiers are held back mentally by the loss of Kiowa, a good friend to many of the soldiers in the unit. The condition of the field adds to this negativity as the soldiers literally must trudge through excrement to find their friend. The weather adds further to the predicament of the soldiers. As Jimmy Cross ponders his letter to Kiowa’s family “[t]he rain fell in a cold, sad drizzle” (162). While the rain slows the progress of the unit in their attempts to find Kiowa’s corpse, it also reflects how the soldiers feel. The rain represents the universal sadness and tears present in the unit. Jimmy Cross even rubs his eyes, a possible sign that he has cried. Finally, the depth of the water reflects the pain felt by Jimmy Cross and the rest of his unit. Kiowa’s death greatly affects Cross as he goes “deeper into the muck, the dark water at his throat” (169). In this example, Lieutenant Cross continues deeper and deeper into the water, almost as if he is trying to drown away the feelings he is left with. The usage of muck further reflects this attitude. The death of Kiowa leaves him feeling grimy and unclean with failed responsibility; Cross is sick with the assumption that his choice to camp in the field led to this death. Overall, O’Brien’s in-depth explanations of the environment help to remove any ambiguity regarding the mood after Kiowa’s death.

Once more, O’Brien embeds metaphors in Kiowa’s condition to show the mood of the platoon. Initially, every soldier is looking for Kiowa’s corpse, and they are unable to find his body amidst the muck and mud of the field. Kiowa has been lost beneath the earth just as the men have beneath the weight of Kiowa’s death; they are despondent and nostalgic in their remembrance of him. Kiowa’s body has been lost and the soldiers feel lost and confused trying to find it. Once the soldiers find Kiowa’s corpse, they discover it is “angled steeply into the muck, upside down” (167). Removing Kiowa’s body from the mud proves to be an arduous task for O’Brien’s unit: the disgusting deed takes the joint effort of several men. Kiowa’s body is stuck and needs to be extracted from the mud so the men can move on with their mission. Similarly, the soldiers are stuck mentally in a depressed state and need to remove his body to right the wrong they feel in their guilt for his death. Finally, the soldiers remove Kiowa’s body and prepare it for extraction by cleaning it with towels. This finishing act represents the physical removal of dirt and the metaphorical removal of guilt. The soldiers feel compelled to do this because in washing away the scum and mud off of Kiowa’s body, they right their last wrongs and allow themselves to move on mentally from Kiowa’s traumatic passing. On the whole, the state of Kiowa’s corpse holds parallels to the feelings of the soldiers in O’Brien’s unit.
Frequently, writers reveal the hidden feelings of characters through descriptions of inanimate worldly features. However, the necessity of understanding the ties between environment and mood expands beyond literature and into broader entertainment: the directors of movies and the creators of video games often use small natural details to reveal larger meaning. O’Brien does just this in “In the Field,” where his description of the weather and natural surrounding and the state of Kiowa’s corpse represent the emotions of the soldiers.

Click here to learn more about the climate and geography of Vietnam

Burrows, Larry. America in Vietnam, 1963: Deeper into War. 1963. Photograph. Time & Life Pictures. Time Life. Time. Web. 16 Oct. 2013. <>.