17 September 2014
In Country, is a novel set in Hopewell, Kentucky in the summer of 1984. Sam is intrigued about the Vietnam War, especially her father’s story. She lacks information about her father and becomes increasingly interested in helping her uncle, Emmett, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sam is interested in finding answers about her father and learning about the war. “Sam wanted to care about her father, but she didn’t know enough about him.” (191) Throughout the novel, Sam questions family members who knew her father, and asks Emmett’s friends, who are also Vietnam veterans, what the war was really like. After much persistence, Sam has the opportunity to read letters written from her father’s deployment and develops a sense of what kind of man her father was.
Although these letters allow Sam to relate to her father in a way she never had, Sam thinks in order to connect with her father more, she must continue researching and learning about the Vietnam War and her father before and during the war. However, Sam quickly discovers how many people prefer not to speak of the war. The letters from Sam’s father provided authenticity into what kind of man her father was, and how combat veterans displace themselves from war through letters and literature. Sam attended a veteran’s ball dance. A gentleman approaches her and provides information regarding who her dad was. “Your daddy wasn’t lucky at all. He never got to know you.” (119) This statement is debatable in interpretation. The gentleman was trying to reassure Sam of how good of a guy her father was and was intended to provide comfort. I’m certain Sam is overwhelmed with emotions, but curiosity surrounding her father provided Sam with an overwhelming sense of clarity to research further. After arranging the letters chronologically, Sam noticed how several letters didn’t mention anything about Vietnam.
He went on like that for several letters, without saying anything about Vietnam. He sounded like a preacher. He wrote about God and His blessings. He wrote, “I pray daily for the little babe.” It made Sam feel funny. (181)
This is common among veterans during combat deployment, to displace them from war. “War is hell,” and whenever combat veterans wrote home, they didn’t want to include the negative details associated with the war. They wrote letters to distract themselves and to “get out of the war” momentarily. Combat Veterans don’t want to publicize the measures they had to take during war. They didn’t want their families at home to worry, but rather ask a question about the weather or what’s for dinner. Sam doesn’t understand this. She wants to find out what the Vietnam War was like, without sugar coating. She wants the positive and negatives. Perhaps Sam is blind sided by this fact among veterans, even though her Uncle…