Daly Walker has written a story about a doctor who is haunted by the shame and guilt he carries with him from the atrocious acts he committed while serving in the army; acts so horrible that he cannot speak of them. The story depends on his use of three literary elements: setting, plot and symbolism.
He has never told his wife and daughter anything about the time he spent as a grunt with the 25th infantry in Vietnam even though the horrible memories are with him all the time. He loves his wife and daughter and wants them to believe he is a good man even though he doesn’t believe it. He feels that he is two people fighting within himself. On the outside, he appears to live a comfortable life as a physician and family man, but on the inside he is a war criminal with a shriveled soul. He is a plastic surgeon who is bored with his vain plastic surgery patients for whom he performs tummy tucks, face lifts and liposuction even though he enjoys the money he makes from his work. He also does reconstructive surgery on children and accident victims and this is the work that he loves. He spends a couple of weeks every summer with Operation Smile, repairing cleft palates and lips of children in foreign countries. It is this volunteer work that gives him a feeling of decency, of being a healer and he returns to Vietnam to use his surgical skills to help the children of the people he once hated. It is the story of his attempt to somehow atone for the sins he committed during the war and make peace with his memories and Vietnam as well.
The setting for the story is Vietnam during the war and twenty years later. The author returns to Vietnam on a mission of mercy twenty years after he left it as a young American soldier in the infantry. The description of Vietnam during the war is contrasted to the Vietnam he finds when he returns. His memories are of a war torn country, scary and dangerous. The thick jungle and tall grass stand out in his mind along
Cited: Walker, Daly. “I Am the Grass” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s, 2011. 315-328. Print.