Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Evaluation Of The Things They Carried English Literature Essay
Evaluation Of The Things They Carried English Literature Essay We had witnessed something essential, something brand-new and profound, a piece of the world so startling there was not yet a name for it. The quote from OBrien talks about an approach to exploring the American involvement in the conflict in Vietnam and it suggests that much has been carried out of this war, if not by official governmental standards the lives of those who were intimately involved in the battles of the conflict. There exists a national tension surrounding conversations about war in the United States. The anxiety of these conversations arises from discussing the lack of official closure of the war, the motivations for beginning the war, as well as the domestic social turmoil of the period. The remarkable disparity between the official government reports and the narratives and memoirs of soldiers who fought in the war as evidenced by the quotes also contributes to the tension. How do we tell the history of a conflict that is either unremarkable or a fracture in the soci o-cultural evolution of the United States? The Vietnam War itself became a field of competing discourses. The struggle to maintain the American myth, the inability of the conflict to fit into traditional war history, media coverage, and the personal narratives from returning soldiers and personnel contributed to social turmoil surrounding the place of the war in history. Personal narratives not only faced disregard by the official discourse of the war but veterans also struggled with the form in which they could communicate these strikingly different war stories. In his novels of the Vietnam War, in particular the short story collection The Things They Carried, Tim OBrien explores the experiences of soldiers in war who are themselves seeking to tell such a story. During the war and later in life reflecting on their experiences, the characters are themselves looking to tell the history of the conflict as well as their own histories. This story combines memory, fiction an personal narrative in an attempt to address some of the most complicated questions arising from their involvement in the war. OBriens writing promotes a new rhetoric of the relationship between truth, language, and knowledge specific to the historical context of the Vietnam War. OBriens postmodern notions of truth and history-telling provide a framework for encouraging communication about the Vietnam War and its stories. In order to contextualize OBriens rhetoric, it is necessary to briefly examine his own history of story telling as well as the critical responses to his work. Operating from the assumptions of postmodernism, OBriens rhetoric defines truth subjectively and examines the relationship between language and knowledge in conveying that subjective truth. Ultimately, OBrien addresses the problem of communication. He explores how we communicate our experiences to ourselves, through memory, language, and imagination and then how these experiences are communicated to others. OBrien concludes that because there is no Truth in an objective sense, language as a referent is not sufficient for communicating or understanding personal experience. This problem combined with the national tension surrounding talk of the Vietnam War complicates discussion of both personal and national histories of this war. OÃ ¢Ã ¢Ã¢â¬Å¡Ã ¬Ã ¢Ã¢â¬Å¾Ã ¢Brien ties these two problems together in a rhetoric that, firmly rooted in a postmodern theory, acknowledges the impossibility of relating the Truth of the war. He instead manipulates what Nietzsche calls the human will to truth, narrative structure, and language itself to produce a new discourse for addressing individual and social histories of the Vietnam War. It is a narrative discourse that makes apparent the limitations of the traditional binary of truth and fiction by continuously calling into question the interpretive strategies of the reader, the author, and the text itself. OBrien reverses the hierarchy by placing fiction over truth. Employing a postmodern reading of the text, it is possible to see that rather than simply exploring how he can invert these universals, OBrien is questioning the way we think about these terms. Rather than the Platonic assumption that there is Truth and Fiction and we must differentiate no matter which one we prioritize, OBrien is how we think about what constitutes fact (truth) and fiction. Reading from the assumptions of postmodernism can suggest that what OBrien really does is create a rhetoric that functions to demolish the traditional notions of what constitutes Truth and fiction. OBrien explores our traditional understanding of these terms and suggests not that one is better than the other, but that they do not exist in concrete reality. Through the distrust of humans desire to know any Truth, the fragmentation of his narrative structure, and the questioning of the ability of language to communicate, OBrien uses the Vietnam War (an historical event) to suggest that by rewriting the way we understand what we mean by truth and fiction we can reclaim discourse on the Vietnam War that would be traditionally marginalized. It may be that although we cannot agree on one Truth out the history of the war that we can at least engage a discourse about the individual and national struggles with Vietnam. In the final story in The Things They Carried, Tim OBrien writes, The about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head (230). In this final story OBrien writes about the purpose of storytelling. The project of The Things They Carried is ultimately communication but it is communication in a postmodern sense. Deconstructing the binary of truth and fiction, OBrien wants to communicate what he calls story truth, his blend of memory, imagination, and language. Reading through OBriens own framework for story truth, we can see that The Things They Carried presents a rhetoric for reading the Vietnam War through experience and outside of the official discourse of the war. Ultimately, the question becomes one of communication. How can we communicate histories or experience to ourselves and to others? Tim OBriens postmodern rhetoric suggests that since there is no Truth, language as a referent is no longer sufficient. Discourse, even historical discourse, must be communicated in terms of story truth that manipulates language, context, and narrative structure in order to convey always shifting subjective interpretations. The turbulent social history of the Vietnam War has resulted in the large disparity between the official discourse and the unofficial knowledge and experience of the conflict. OBrien combines the problem of communication with the historical turmoil of the Vietnam War period in The Things They Carried to address both circumstances . He produces a narrative that makes apparent the limitations of dividing truth from fiction by continuously calling into question interpretive strategies of both the writing itself and the reader. OBriens rhetoric argues that although communication of objective truth is impossible, we must focus on maintaining discourse with and about the people and events surrounding Vietnam War. Arguing that social as well as personal histories are written through discourse, OBrien suggests that the most important function of discourse is the act of listening. He argues that stories can save lives by giving voice to individual subjects whose histories can be heard as part of the discourse of the war.