The Hero Inside All Essay

Submitted By pkramer6
Words: 2316
Pages: 10

The Hero Inside All When hearing a story from the viewpoint of a soldier, one is confident in its truth and reality. But what happens when that truthful relationship between storyteller and audience is threatened by fiction? As demonstrated in A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway and The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, fictional stories can hold much deeper meanings than its purely factual counterpart. Both writers accomplish their purpose by telling a larger truth within a war story as both transcend ordinary storytelling by packing meaning and purpose behind every story, word, and action of the novels to craft a central message about war heroes. Hemingway and O’Brien portray a war hero in the traditional sense a misnomer, and throughout their stories quantify a war hero not as a soldier but an ordinary man, full of vulnerability and weakness alike, who is thrust into a chaotic scene of war only to surprise himself and rise to the occasion with extreme courage. Furthermore, the two interpret a war hero as something achievable by all and do not attempt to romanticize heroes with glory. To accomplish the difficult task of succeeding in rejecting a war hero in the traditional sense, the writers effectively employ a candid, honest tone that tells a softer side of the soldier and reveals the susceptibility of a man underneath the cloak of a soldier. The tone thrives in exposing the duality of a soldier and man, for the result is the reimagining of a war hero. Utilizing an open and honest tone with aspects of confession, reasoning, and doubt, both writers sell the vulnerability of the characters and parallel it with their acts of extreme courage to succeed in telling the story of true war heroes. Focusing on the transformation of man into soldier and back again, The Things They Carried appropriately carries with it a defining message of war and the heroes it produces. O’Brien uses his own experience in the Vietnam War to guide his work, and he tells his stories of war centered around the human qualities of soldiers and not solely their heroic acts. Furthermore, O’Brien highlights the soldiers’ sole objective of survival. By fighting to survive, the soldiers immediately transform into war heroes taking their human qualities with them. To explain and expound upon these ideas, O’Brien proclaims a confessionary tone throughout the novel as he looks back on the events that transformed him and his fellow soldiers. Rejecting the typical stance on what a war hero is, O’Brien shares moments of soldiers’ lives when they are most vulnerable and human, and he chooses to reveal these men at their weakest to show their role as a soldier cannot be separated by the ordinary man in all of them. He shares a description of the reasons for serving: “They carried the soldier’s greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing. Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to. It was what had brought them to the war in the first place, nothing positive, no dreams of glory or honor, just to avoid the blush of dishonor. They died as not to die of embarrassment” (O’Brien 20). O’Brien describes the soldiers’ desire to make war as driven by unchecked fear, guilt, anxiety, and emotion. The desires of these soldiers do not match the prototypical motivations for fighting such as love for country and glory. He makes the point, however, that although lacking the mental requirements for a hero, the men’s presence in the war is heroic enough. To show more of the imperfections of the soldiers, O’Brien describes Lieutenant Cross: “A moment of carelessness or bad judgment or plain stupidity carried consequences that lasted forever. For a long while Jimmy Cross lay floating […] He was back home in New Jersey. A golden afternoon on the golf course, the fairways lush and green […] It was a world without responsibility” (O’Brien 170). After Kiowa’s death, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross is faced with accepting his decisions and the death of a friend, but