In way of explanation to anybody coming across this by way of Google or otherwise, this is an assignment for my American Literature class, obviously being taken at the University of Texas at Arlington.
I really couldn’t select just one artistic response to war, but I did select one war. The Vietnam Conflict was still ongoing when I was born, and I have known many veterans of that war. When relating their stories, they run the gamut from a drug-fueled tank ride through the jungle to laying in a rice patty for 80 hours perfectly still while the enemy walked overhead. One that I knew was exposed to Agent Orange, a chemical spray used to kill and strip the foliage from the jungle so that the enemy was easier to spot. This Marine’s wife lost several babies by miscarriage because of this exposure.
If you have not seen either “Full Metal Jacket” or “Apocalypse Now” you are missing out on two of the greatest cinematic experiences of the 20th century. I urge you to see both of these films in their entirety.
The first clip is from FMJ, and has parallels to “The Things They Carried,” in the observation of the coping mechanisms of the soldiers of such surreal circumstances. The posturing and bravado of the soldiers is evident, the dark humor as a method of coping with death is also present. The common theme between the book and the two clips is also evident in the very singular, very individualist viewpoints as a way to get through the war.
Animal Mother – found at YouTube
This next clip is the famous beach scene, where Robert Duvall’s character Lieutenant Bill Kilgore utters the famous line “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” Again we see the individualism, the surrealism, almost as these people are walking through a waking dream. Toward the end of the clip in a slightly fearful tone, he says, “someday this wars gonna end.” This is right after a shell blast just behind him everyone flinches and ducks except for him.
Smell of Napalm – found at YouTube
The escapist mechanism of Jimmy Cross carrying Martha’s picture matches that of Crazy Earl proclaiming “this is my bro” about the dead Viet Cong, which carries through to Kilgore wanting a surf party on the beach. Each is injecting a peaceful concept into a non-peaceful situation, and not really caring about the absurdity of it. I think that in war, the mind does this to merely cope with an otherwise unthinkable situation.