The Sorrow Of War Analysis

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Steven Kaplan of the University of Southern Colorado describes the Vietnam War to be “a wild and terrible work of fiction written by some dangerous and frightening storytellers” (Kaplan). The fictional work of storytellers can be drawn back to the Vietnam War itself and its association with many unknowns, and this leads people around the world to question exactly what is certain and what is uncertain about the Vietnam War. The truth of Kaplan’s statement that “the only certain thing during the Vietnam War was that nothing was certain” is identifiable in Bao Ninh’s The Sorrow of War through multiple aspects of the novel. Kaplan’s statement is applicable to the novel through the reader's perception of characters’ unexpected actions, and through …show more content…
There are several instances in the novel where characters take actions that readers perceive to be unexpected, and this leads readers to believe that the only thing certain about the Vietnam War is that people are going to act in uncertain ways. For example, a military scout, Can, describes a time where he is in battle fighting enemy ARVN Commandos, and a commando lands in a bomb crater that he is hiding in. Expectantly, Can “stab[s] him twice in the chest through his camouflage, then once more in the belly, then again in the neck” (Ninh 92), but unexpectedly, Can does not kill the commando and instead runs off to “find some cloth and bandages” (Ninh 93). Wounding an enemy and then proceeding to bandage the enemy back up is not a typical occurrence at war; the task at war is to destroy the enemy, not save them. This leads readers to question the certainty of soldiers’ actions at war because Can clearly does not do what is characteristic of a soldier fighting an enemy. In another instance, soldiers Kien and Oanh are in a police station, and their order is to kill those wearing white shirts. They come across a room containing three women and Oanh immediately exclaims “They’re women! Don’t shoot” (Ninh 105). This does not surprise the reader as shooting women is frowned upon, but …show more content…
There are multiple statements that Kien makes and characteristics about him while he is writing that make readers call into question whether or not his stories are factual. For instance, Kien describes that the war stories that he remembers and tells are “focused and refocused until past scenes and the present become a raging reality” (Ninh 68), and that war drives him “down to into the depths of his imagination...there his writing could take substance” (Ninh 173). Essentially, Kien is saying that in order for his stories about the war to become a reality, he needs to combine the present moment with past events from war. Additionally, the only way Kien’s stories can become real is for him to dive into the depths of his imagination to create them. These statements lead readers to think that “the only certain thing during the Vietnam War was that nothing was certain” because Kien’s stories are not entirely authentic; they contain details from when Kien is actually in the Vietnam War, details from when he is not, and details from his imagination. Furthermore, Kien mentions that “he had intended to write one thing but his pen took another direction, displaying a mind of its own” (Ninh 194). This comment only adds to the certain uncertainty of the Vietnam War because Kien’s pen creates the story, and not Kien himself. Lastly, Kien’s reliability as a narrator is called into question because Kien

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