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