We Were Soldiers Once And Young Analysis

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Careful analysis of Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” and Harold Moore’s and Joseph Galloway’s “We Were Soldiers Once… And Young” reveals two markedly different portrayals of the United States’ army during the Vietnam War. This change mirrors the dwindling optimism of the American people from Moore and Galloway’s account of the 1965 Battle of la Drang and O’Brien’s more comprehensive account of the later stages of the war and post-war period. While O’Brien, Moore, and Galloway all served extensive time in Vietnam, their portrayals of the American military differ in tone and narrative. O’Brien portrays the American soldiers in a more negative light, terrified of the potential trouble lurking in the jungles of Vietnam. By comparison, …show more content…
While being frightened of what might happen during war is reasonable, this fear seems to be a central theme of O’Brien’s novel. Upon receiving his draft notice in the summer of 1968, O’Brien recalls being distraught. As an active protester of the war, the last thing O’Brien wanted was to serve in what he believed to be an unnecessary war in Vietnam. His mind racing with fear, O’Brien initially flees to Canada and finds solace at the Tip Top Lodge along the Rainy River. While there, he deliberates whether to join the war or abide his conscience and flee. Despite his reluctance, O’Brien cannot forsake his country, claiming, “I was a coward, I went to the war” (The Things They Carried, 58). O’Brien is deeply troubled by the predicament he finds himself in: having to fight a war he morally opposes or leaving the country and people that he loves. This feeling epitomizes the plight of many soldiers and O’Brien carries this feeling with him to Vietnam. In Vietnam, despair and hopelessness run rampant among the troops. Many find ways to comfort their suffering, but the Medic, Rat Kiley, cannot come to terms with the reality of war and cracks. The company was traveling only at night to avoid the NVA, staying off main trails, and enduring a generally more restrictive lifestyle. Unable to cope, Kiley drifts into a state of insanity, constantly complaining about, “bugs personally after his ass” (The Things They Carried, 209), and experiencing gruesome images of death, eventually even visions of his own demise. “The next morning he shot himself” (The Things They Carried, 212). Kiley could not take it anymore and sacrificed his toe to save his mind, knowing that would lead to his discharge. While this could be looked at as an extremely cowardly act, “Nobody blamed him” (The Things They Carried, 212). Vietnam takes a toll on all involved, but

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