In Country

1491 Words6 Pages
In Country In the novel “In Country” by Bobbie Ann Mason, we find the story of a young girl who struggles in life to find out about her father and the history of the Vietnam War. Throughout the book, the reader finds out that this girl, Sam Hughes, is not your every day teenager. She is faced with the responsibility of dealing with her unmotivated uncle and a boyfriend she really doesn’t care for anymore. She’s confronted with the fact that she really knows nothing about her father and the War he took part in. All of the people she knows who were involved in Vietnam have been touched somehow by the war. What are some of the things she learns from these people? What does she find out about herself and about the father she has never even met? Sam’s search for information about her father and his War concludes instead with the discovery of herself. A step towards seeking out the truth about a man who has been a phantom to her throughout her life becomes a step towards helping her find the truth about herself. In the beginning of the novel, Sam sees her father as something that can only be contained in a picture. She tucks a picture of him into a mirror frame in her room and tries to imagine what he could be like. However, the picture doesn’t give her any answers - “The soldier boy in the picture never changed. In a way that made him dependable. But he seemed so innocent” (p 66). She struggles to imagine what it would be like trying to tell her dad of all the things he had missed out on. Like a child talking to its stuffed animals, she talks to the picture as if it were alive. “ ‘You missed Watergate,’ Sam said to the picture.” (p. 67). She wants to make her father a more personal figure in her life instead of just a photo she has seen hundreds of times before. Television gives Sam another look at some situations that her dad must have faced in Vietnam. It has the power to bring scenes of the war into her living room. Sam remembers when her family bought its first color television set. Because her mom became upset when Emmett told his war stories, TV was one of the things that fed Sam’s imagination. She had always relied on the pictures in her mind to help her see what Vietnam was like, but when they got a TV, Vietnam became a real place to her for the very first time (p 51). She and Emmett watch M*A*S*H episodes almost non-sto... ... middle of paper ... ...iary. In an attempt to affirm the voice of her father, she tries to follow in his footsteps. She tries to understand through an encounter with what is real to her. Sam camps out in the swamp to find her own reality. In one sense, she finally recognizes her own experience as a useful standard of personal truth – the only truth there is. What does Sam learn from her experiences in the swamp? She learns that she will never really know her father – never really learn from him. The things that happened to her in the swamp, while being real to her, were not what happened in Vietnam, no matter how hard she tried to believe it. Yet as a result of her night on her own, Sam is even more aware of her father and her loss. She’s finally truly feeling his death for the first time (p.229). Now, at long last, Sam is able to confront the truth of her loss, the authority of her experience, and the effect that Vietnam had on her life. This is why she and Emmett go to the War Memorial. She and her father share a surname. They are related, but they are different, too. In her solitude, Sam has begun to realize the value of her personal role in the production of meaning, truth, and self.
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