How the Vietnam War Affected the American Soldiers

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The constant exposure to life and death throughout the Vietnam War altered several American soldiers perspective on society. In the novel, The Things They Carried, author Tim O’Brien uses characters such as Rat Kiley, Tim O’Brien, and Norman Bowker to prove this point. While all the characters have very different personalities, skills, and future goals, each one of them are moved by the war similarly. However, Vietnam also has a specific effect on each soldier causing them to feel a certain way. For instance, one could experience fear at night or anxiety throughout a monsoon. The effect of war was both a dramatic and life altering event for both American soldiers stationed in Vietnam and those returning home.

“You're a shadow. You slip out of your own skin, like molting, shedding your own history and your own future, leaving behind everything you ever were or wanted or believed in." (Page 201) In an attempt to scare a fellow soldier, Bobby Jorgenson, Tim O’Brien experiences a life altering epiphany of not only the Vietnam war, but of life in general. While the narrator’s main aim was to terrify Jorgenson, in reality Tim was the person who was scared. For many American soldiers, Vietnam resembles a savage, cruel, terrifying place. As a result, several troops, Tim O’Brien included, strive to create a parallel reality: a world where there is tranquility. Before Tim is reintroduced to his old platoon, this alternate reality was the perfect way to deal with stress. However, when the old squadron shows up, the narrator becomes a mysterious, cruel person seeking revenge in the meanest way possible. This transformation resembles every American soldier’s description of Vietnam. Similarly, everything that Tim was participating in goes against his alternate reality, which was the solution to most of the narrator’s dilemmas. By the end of the whole prank, Tim fears that he is slowly becoming Vietnam. When the narrator sees that Jorgenson is terrified for his life, Tim...
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