If I Die in a Combat Zone

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If I Die in a Combat Zone Essay

Men have always viewed a love or need for a woman as a weakness. This is especially true in the U.S. military, where violence is sexualized and women are viewed as unnecessary. In a way, this is done to make life in the army easier because their are no women in the majority of their time. During an occupation, the local women have to incur the wrath of men trained to see them as something below human. Tim O'Brien exemplifies this in his novel, If I Die in a Combat Zone, where the soldiers in Vietnam mistreat the women used for sexual purposes like strippers and prostitutes, yet treat women in the villages as if they were their mothers. Soldiers at war, far away from the women in their lives, leads soldiers to objectify and de-humanize women.

During the basic training of Marines, they are subjected to a berating of sexist, disgusting language in order to break them of their previous life. This is best revealed in Stanley Kubricks "Full Metal Jacket". Such references to the sexualization of violence like "God has a hard-on for marines because we kill everything we see!" and "You're married to this piece. This weapon of iron and wood. And you will be faithful" by the drill seargeant Hartman are part of the way that they get normal, rational human beings to kill. People are no longer people, and women are no longer women, because they are they enemy. Killing Machines like Marines don't need women, they only need to kill. This institutional conditioning makes these men into machines and the enemy into animals. This is the perfect way to overcome the logic of the antiwar sentiment to make soldiers kill.

In Vietnam, the soldier O'Brien portrays treat the local women very differently then they would women in the U.S.. The prostitutes and strippers who make their living off of the occupying soldiers are treated like objects. The soldiers, instead of jumping at the chance of time with the prostitute, barter to get the lowest...
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