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Eternal Internal War

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  • May 2005
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What is war? Is it explicitly limited to an external conflict between two or more countries, or can it be a conflict that occurs within a person's emotions, thoughts, and beliefs? That question can be pondered by anyone for countless hours without any real sway to either choice, but there a few examples in literature that could prove the latter choice is the more adequate definition of what war is. Novels such as The Things They Carried, Caucasia, and Funny Boy are great examples of the war that occurs within ones self when a person perseveres through tough times.

It seems obvious to first explore a book that, for the most part, takes place in an external war between countries. The Things They Carried is set during the Vietnam War and is told by Tim O'Brien, a soldier who reluctantly went to Vietnam to fight. Saying ‘reluctantly' is an understatement and his true feelings about joining the war can only be expressed by his own words: "I was a coward. I went to war" (O'Brien 61). This simple statement explains his exact feelings about being drafted, trying to dodge the draft, but then, afraid of what his family and friends would think, going to the war. He felt he was a coward for not sticking to his beliefs and he fought over this for days at a resort just a boat ride away from Canada and, furthermore, freedom from going to Vietnam.

Further into the novel you learn about his conflict within himself when he kills an enemy and actually cares about what he just did. He mentions all of his friends that died along the way such as Ted Lavender, Curt Lemon, and Kiowa yet never goes into such detail about how he felt personally until he talks about the man that he killed. This is a huge emotional struggle for him as he stares for hours just thinking and, later in life, trying to sort out exactly how he should feel about killing the young man. He describes this by saying "Even now I haven't finished sorting it out. Sometimes I forgive myself, other times I don't"...

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