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. <>.

"In the Field"

Luke Binet

To be quite honest the first thing I thought of when I read the chapter In the Field was Easter Egg hunting. Every Easter children run through their front yard frantically in order to collect Easter Eggs and the goods that are in them. In this chapter, the whole squad is searching for their dead friend Kiowa who is buried in “shit” somewhere in a flooded field. Something about kids frantically searching for easter eggs reminded me of an army squad searching frantically for a long lost friend in a field of shit. Neither the little kids nor the squad would ever give up until all of the eggs were in their baskets.

The connection that I made to searching for Kiowa’s body and Easter Egg hunting led me to think about connections in character between Kiowa and Jesus. I found many ties between Kiowa and Jesus. Kiowa is described as the perfect warrior and an amazing kid. He carries a bible everywhere he goes, and he is a gentle and soft spoken man. Lieutenant Cross describes him as “...a fine soldier and a fine human being, a devout Baptist…(p.156)”. Cross complements Kiowa very often saying, “And Kiowa has been a splendid human being, the very best, intelligent and gentle and quiet-spoken. Very brave, too. And decent. (p.157)”. Jesus is also described as a model human being who is perfect. Kiowa might not be perfect, but he is a model citizen. Kiowa was friends with everyone in the squad and everyone respected him. Jesus also made many friends and was respected by many, however Jesus was also hated unlike Kiowa. I also found that Jesus and Kiowa died in similar ways. Both died a gruesome death for the things they believed in. Kiowa died supporting his country and the American cause, and Jesus died to relieve the people of their sins. Lieutenant Cross stated that Kiowa’s death was a “crime (p.156),” because such a good man did not deserve to die in such a horrible way.  Both were resurrected in the end. Kiowa was literally lifted up from the shit field, and Jesus ascended into heaven. One of the most ironic similarities between Kiowa and Jesus is that the people that felt responsible for both of these great men’s death ended up killing themselves. What is even weirder is that they both hanged themselves. Both Judas and Norman Bowker committed suicide because they felt guilty for their friend’s death. Jesus and Kiowa had lasting effects on the people they interacted with.
There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that O’Brien tried to relate Kiowa in a way to Jesus. Irony plays a huge role in the book The Things They Carried, and in this chapter irony is repeated over and over again.

"In the Field"

     In the story “In the Field," soldiers of the same platoon as a recently killed soldier named Kiowa, look for the dead soldier in a shit field. While digging through the muck, the remaining soldiers begin to try to place blame for the death. Though Kiowa was buried in a river of shit brought on by a monsoon, and nobody actually murdered the Native American soldier, the men feel the universal belief that it has to be someone’s fault. 

Lieutenant Jimmy Cross feels as though it is his fault, because he led the soldiers to the field where Kiowa died. His feeling of guilt is illustrated in the lines, “He would place the blame where it belonged...My own fault, he would say” (161-162). Numerous other soldiers, such as Norman Bowker and the young man who was showing a picture of his girlfriend to Kiowa just before the soldier died, feel as though it is their fault as well. So many of the soldiers believe that the accident is their fault, that the narrator states, “He, too, blamed himself” (162) referring yet another guilt-ridden serviceman.

     This idea of placing blame onto someone is a motif in many films, television shows, and pieces of literature. One movie in which this idea is prominent is in The Lion King. In The Lion King, a lion named Scar sets up his brother Mufasa’s death, but makes it look as though it were Mufasa’s son Simba’s fault. Wildebeest trample Mufasa, killing him, and from Simba’s point of view, it looks like an accident. However, Scar has fabricated the plan for the murder. He then belies his true intentions, comforting Simba. However, while consoling the young lion, Scar implies that it was Simba’s fault that Mufasa is dead. Simba feels guilty for something he did not do, and runs away, leaving the kingdom of Pride Rock for his loathsome uncle to rule.

     In both The Things They Carried and The Lion King, the characters are overwhelmed by the circumstances they are faced with, and feel as though the guilt has to be placed somewhere. Individuals will go to great lengths to find someone to place blame on before they place it on themselves. Therefore, once someone has blamed himself or herself, he or she rarely decides that he or she is not guilty. In Simba’s case, the blame is placed on him by another being. However, he does not dismiss the guilt, but accepts the blame, causing him to enter a morose state. Both of these stories show how the pattern of placing blame is a powerful one, and that rarely can an event happen without it being thought of as someone’s fault.

Field Trip

          Tim O’Brien’s story Field Trip is about a war veteran returning to pay homage to his deceased best friend. Kiowa died during the war after he drowned in the “shit field.” To O’Brien “[t]his little field…had swallowed so much.” (176). He talks about the loss of his best friend, his pride and his belief in himself. The field was a place of great meaning and importance to O’Brien. He returned because he wanted to honor his best friend by burying the moccasins where Kiowa had died. Additionally, Tim O’Brien wanted to show his daughter Vietnam, “…the Vietnam that kept [him] awake at night…” (176). This, in a way, is honoring the war and what enormous impact it had on O’Brien as a person both during and after the war. People often return to scenes of trauma for closure, to pay tribute or for remembrance. It’s not necessarily always a war zone that people return to, maybe a grave, museum or monument. In Field Trip O’Brien’s daughter, Kathleen, does not understand the meaning behind her father’s visit to My Khe, and therefore is slightly irritable. Events can have different impacts on different people, sometimes it has an impact on the next generation and sometimes it does not. In the movie, Schindler’s List, directed by Steven Spielberg, the work of Oskar Schindler does have an impact on future generations.
            Oskar Schindler was a German man working to save Jewish victims of the Nazis. In the movie, Schindler brings multiple Jewish people to work in his factory so they will not be sent to concentration camps. Today, the descendants of the people Oskar Schindler saved are incredibly grateful for his work. Without Schindler, thousands of people would not be alive today, he was responsible for saving the lives of over one thousand Jewish Europeans. The present-day descendants of Schindler’s Jews, as named in the movie, honor and thank Schindler by placing rocks on his tombstone. In the Jewish culture placing rocks on tombstones symbolizes permanence of memory, and such an important memory this is for a myriad of people. Oskar Schindler’s acts were audacious and unconventional, and therefore an amazing contribution in society. Schindler said “[h]e who saves one life saves the world entire.” This quote is incredibly powerful because in the eyes of the people whose lives he saved, he did indeed save their entire world.
            In both stories people travel to a place of great significance in order to honor a specific person. For Tim O’Brien it was his best friend, for Jewish Europeans it was their life-saver. Schindler’s altruistic nature is cause for celebration for thousands of present-day progeny of Holocaust survivors. Kiowa’s meaningful friendship with O’Brien  provided a way for O’Brien to gain closure and pay his respects. Thus, the death of two people, who were influential in two different ways, resulted in sincere commemoration. 

Read More

Oskar Schindler - The Righteous Among The Nations. N.d. Photograph. Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


In 2009, 149 US soldiers were killed in Iraq; while 304 committed suicide AFTER their service was completed.  This means the emotional effects the war left on these soldiers resulted in more than twice the number of deaths caused directly by the violence of war.
The legal system sends people to jail as a punishment for their crimes, because jail is considered a horrible place.  Yet, many prisoners who have served long sentences, commit crimes after their release in an effort to get sent back to jail.  For some people prison is easier, they don’t have to worry about the outside world, they fit in at prison, and they don’t have any taxes or jobs.  Many don’t know how to return to their old lives; how to face reality again.  The change is just too difficult for them to handle.
            Prison is a lot like war; you get so used to it, you don’t know how to NOT live in fear.  That’s how Norman Bowker felt after the war.  Life after the war was too easy and lacked purpose.  He was stuck-paralyzed.  He couldn’t relate with anyone because he didn’t know how to tell anyone how he felt.  Everything he did felt small and meaningless, and everything he said came out wrong.  He was unable to process his feelings and communicate them to others.  He couldn’t even understand his own feelings and comprehend what he had been through.  He no longer had someone giving him orders, and assigning him purposeful missions.  That’s why he wrote to Tim.  He wanted Tim to tell him what to do, to give him orders.  Norman wanted Tim to write a story about him for the sole purpose of reading the ending, to tell him what to do next.
            Tim O’Brien used his writing to speak for him, he got all of his emotions out on paper, he moved on.  Norman couldn’t do that.  He couldn’t form his thoughts into words.  So they were all bottled up inside him, eating him from the inside out; killing him. 
            What do you do when you’ve been to hell, but then came back?  Bowker couldn’t move on- he couldn’t recover.  In Bowker’s case, the recovery was harder than the war itself.  Once he gets O’Brien’s story, it’s not what he wanted.  It doesn’t answer his questions; it doesn’t fill that hole.  In the first story, the character is not like Bowker, and Kiowa’s death, which was such a huge part of Bowker’s life, isn’t even in it.  Once again, Norman couldn’t get his feelings across to anyone, because no one understood and he could not explain. 
            After Norman Bowker hangs himself, his mother tells Tim O’Brien that Norman “was quiet” and “didn’t want to bother anyone”.  But the truth is, he was reaching out, frantically, and desperately grasping for help, for understanding, for recovery.  Tim writes another story, this time better, what Bowker would have wanted.  He includes all the details and Kiowa’s death to make the story really about Norman Bowker’s life.
            When soldiers go to war they become totally different people than who they were.  War takes over them, and consumes them.  It leaves such a big impact, leaves such a big scar, some soldiers don’t ever really return from war.  They can’t seem to find who they were, who they used to be.  So much has changed, everything is different and nothing is the same.  Sometimes reality is too hard face, so they simply choose not to face it.
            Norman Bowker told O’Brien that he felt like he had died in Nam, that he wasn’t really living, and maybe he was right.  Maybe Norman Bowker never really did leave the war.  Maybe he didn’t want to.  Like those prisoners, war became all Bowker knew.  He didn’t know how to not be on a mission, to not live in fear.  Norman Bowker couldn’t face reality after the war, so he never did.

This is a TEST. I'm showing a student how to embed a link....

I'm going along, singing a song.

Ylvis. N.d. Photograph. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Speaking of Courage"

In Speaking of Courage, Norman Bowker shows similarities in many ways to Tim O’Brien in the chapter, On the Rainy River. These chapters illustrate how the two men view courage, and how it applies to themselves. The young soldiers feel as though they have somehow failed, so they find a place to go to where they can just think to themselves about either their future or their past.
Both Bowker and O’Brien want to be brave, but feel like they have failed to do so. It is clear in Speaking of Courage that Norman Bowker wants to impress his dad but the thought that his father won’t be proud of him always lingers in the back of his mind. He constantly tells his dad about all the medals he won, and even lists all of them, then says, “They were for common valor[…] but that was worth something, wasn’t it?” (135) seeking approval. It’s clear to the readers that his dad is proud of him, because whenever Bowker says something negative about himself, his father will respond with something like, “You have seven medals(...) Count ‘em. You weren’t a coward either” (136). Even with responses like this, Bowker continues to think that he could have done better in the war and have been more courageous.
Similar to Bowker, O’Brien “fear[s] losing the respect of [his] parents” (42), but in his case, if he decides not to go to war. Bowker desperately wants to and worries about impressing his family, even though no one had ever told him that they were not impressed. He envisions himself being humiliated by the whole town in the case where he would not serve in the war, but this is what he really wants to do. He does not want to go to war because he knows he is just not that type of person, yet he cannot bring himself to make that decision for himself. He goes to war, and because he chooses to do what everyone else does, and makes the moral decision, he no longer thinks he is brave. O’Brien tells himself that “[he] [is] a coward” (58) because he did what he was told to do and decided to go to war.
Bowker also thinks of himself as cowardly, saying, “I wasn’t very brave” (136) and thinking, “he had not been so brave as he had wanted to be” (147). Both characters reflect on how they could have been brave, but chose not to, and that decision sticks with them.
Tim O’Brien and Norman Bowker find places where they can go to get away from it all, and have time to reflect. O’Brien reflects on his future and the impossible decision he is forced to make by traveling to the Tip Top Lodge, near the Canadian border. Bowker’s place is the road along the lake, where he spends time here looking back on his past in the war.
O’Brien needs to take time to be alone, without the pressures from his family, so he finds this lodge that is isolated from his community. Here he thinks of all the pros and cons of going to war and of doing what he really wants to do and staying away from it.
Just like O’Brien, Bowker finds an isolated place where he can spend all the time he wants to thinking about the war. He drives almost obsessively around the lake over and over again, and spends a majority of his time imagining scenarios where he would be talking with his father about his time in the war. He also imagines telling Sally Kramer about a horrible experience he had while at war. In both these cases, he realizes that no one will ever be able to understand what he went through, but he still feels the need to imagine these scenarios.
Both Tim O’Brien and Norman Bowker feel like they have somehow failed to be brave. Since they view themselves somewhat as cowards, it makes them insecure about how others will view them. They also both feel as though no one back at home would understand the difficulty of their situation, so they have a place to go where they can be away from everyone.

N.d. Photograph. New England History Teacher's Association. NEHTA, 4 Oct. 2013. Web. 9 Oct. 2013.