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Category: Book Reports
Autor: anton 25 March 2011
Words: 618 | Pages: 3
One of the main themes of the novel is the allure of war. This trope, common in war literature, is made more complex here as OÐ²Ð‚â„¢Brien adds the layers of a Conrad-esque Ð²Ð‚Ñšheart of darknessÐ²Ð‚Ñœ fascination in the character of Mary Anne.
The seductive allure of war is inextricably linked to the tendencies of human nature in OÐ²Ð‚â„¢BrienÐ²Ð‚â„¢s novel. War, more specifically the act of killing, acts as a catalyst for some individuals, causing them to become primal versions of themselves, to become less human, to become killing machines. OÐ²Ð‚â„¢Brien revisits this idea numerous times throughout the text, adding subtle variations on the theme as he introduces different characters that struggle with the same core issue. OÐ²Ð‚â„¢Brien initially creates this tension by offering the counterpoint of OÐ²Ð‚â„¢BrienÐ²Ð‚â„¢s daily work duty of declotting slaughtered pigs with his anxiety about his imminent service as a soldier in Vietnam. OÐ²Ð‚â„¢Brien merges the ideas of killing with animals, a symbolic linkage he revisits by describing the soldiers of Alpha Company as animal-like, Ð²Ð‚ÑšhumpingÐ²Ð‚Ñœ their packs and Ð²Ð‚Ñšsaddling upÐ²Ð‚Ñœ their gear.
OÐ²Ð‚â„¢Brien struggles to hold onto the obverse of this animalism, this barbarism, which is a sort of hyper-civility. He succeeds in doing this by continually offering a highly self-conscious and self-aware cultural criticism that frequently draws on the archetypal works that are the foundation of western civilization like PlatoÐ²Ð‚â„¢s Republic.
Contrary to the protagonist Ð²Ð‚ÑšOÐ²Ð‚â„¢BrienÐ²Ð‚â„¢sÐ²Ð‚Ñœ experiential insulation from Vietnamese culture, which is a kind of Ð²Ð‚Ñšuncivilized otherÐ²Ð‚Ñœ according to the terms of U.S. rhetoric that largely defined the war, Mary Anne Bell is a character who deliberately strove for cultural immersion. For Ð²Ð‚ÑšOÐ²Ð‚â„¢Brien,Ð²Ð‚Ñœ the landscape and the Vietnamese occupying that landscape, such as the elderly Vietnamese men who watch him revisit the spot where Kiowa perished, are mostly incidental. Mary Anne actively sought out the ways of the Vietnamese, not just to observe from a distance, but to participate in if possible. Mary Anne, who should have behaved according to accepted Western norms, becomes so much a part of the landscape of Vietnam that she becomes Ð²Ð‚ÑšunnaturalÐ²Ð‚Ñœ to Mark and Rat. For example, the humming they hear coming from the GreeniesÐ²Ð‚â„¢ hut is freaky and unnatural, somehow not human, but it is Mary AnneÐ²Ð‚â„¢s humming. And particularly as a female, she should be Ð²Ð‚ÑšdomesticatedÐ²Ð‚Ñœ and behave in accordance with the readersÐ²Ð‚â„¢ expectations of a young woman in a decade prior to the womenÐ²Ð‚â„¢s liberation movement. Instead she is seduced by the foreign landscape of VietnamÐ²Ð‚â€one which Ð²Ð‚ÑšOÐ²Ð‚â„¢BrienÐ²Ð‚Ñœ resists and barely describesÐ²Ð‚â€and is reduced to her animal-like primal self, a killing machine. Finally, opposite to Ð²Ð‚ÑšOÐ²Ð‚â„¢Brien,Ð²Ð‚Ñœ Mary Anne shows no resistance to the landscape, and has the agility and prowess to slip into the jungle like an adept, predatory jungle animal ready for the hunt.
OÐ²Ð‚â„¢Brien relies on symbolism Joseph Conrad created in Heart of Darkness to connect the landscape of Vietnam to the landscape of immorality that Mary Anne succumbs to and Ð²Ð‚ÑšOÐ²Ð‚â„¢BrienÐ²Ð‚Ñœ resists. Mary Anne becomes a part of what OÐ²Ð‚â„¢Brien/Ð²Ð‚ÑšOÐ²Ð‚â„¢BrienÐ²Ð‚Ñœ most vehemently opposes and what OÐ²Ð‚â„¢Brien/Ð²Ð‚ÑšOÐ²Ð‚â„¢BrienÐ²Ð‚Ñœ most fears: the struggle between the light and dark forces of human nature and the predominance of the darker forces. Just as the character of Mary Anne echoes ConradÐ²Ð‚â„¢s character, Kurtz, Ð²Ð‚ÑšOÐ²Ð‚â„¢BrienÐ²Ð‚Ñœ is a cousin to ConradÐ²Ð‚â„¢s character, Marlow. Like Marlow, OÐ²Ð‚â„¢Brien struggles against his imagination and the fantastic cultural stories that feed it, in Ð²Ð‚ÑšOÐ²Ð‚â„¢BrienÐ²Ð‚â„¢sÐ²Ð‚Ñœ case, the stories of World War II he learned from movies and stories of his fatherÐ²Ð‚â„¢s generation. Ultimately, OÐ²Ð‚â„¢Brien shields himself from a fate similar to Mary AnneÐ²Ð‚â„¢s through the way he employs stories, just as he did during the summer when he worked at the meatpacking plant, by forcing him to look at the struggle between dark and light within himself.