Revelation through Experience in Heart of Darkness, Going After Cacciato, and The Things They Carri

Revelation through Experience in Heart of Darkness, Going After Cacciato, and The Things They Carri

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Revelation through Experience in Heart of Darkness, Going After Cacciato, and The Things They Carried


Foreign lands seemingly possessed by evil spirits as well as evil men, ammunition stockpiles, expendable extremities and splintered, non-expendable limbs carpeting the smoking husks of burnt-out villages, the intoxicating colors of burning napalm, and courage mixed with cowardice in the face of extreme peril. These are just a few examples of the spell-binding images presented in the novels read in the class entitled The Literature of War at Wabash College. These images and their accompanying stories do far more than fill the mind with fantastic ideas of war and heroism; they force the reader into uncomfortable situations thereby compelling the him or her to contemplate and evaluate his or her own personal ideas of valor, honor, decency, morality and mortality. While reading these stories, the reader is not only thrust inside the hearts and minds of the characters as he or she accompanies them upon their physical and/or mental journeys, but he or she is also forced to explore the darkest corners of being that exist inside every human being, male and female. Almost all of the novels are set during wartime and focus on the trials and tribulations faced by the common soldier. In his book The Great War and Modern Memory, Paul Fussell suggests that war literature can generally be broken down into three stages; the first being the innocence stage before the soldier goes to battle, the second being the loss of innocence precipitated by experiencing the horrors of war, and the third stage being the consideration stage where the soldier is removed from the war and contemplates his experiences. (Fussell).

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...d Tim O’Brien have lost their innocence and in doing so, they have unwittingly destroyed the blissful ignorance that made their previous lives possible. One of the only means that these three men find to ease their pain is in the telling of stories. By voicing their feelings and experiences, they are able to continue living and cope with the awful truths they have learned about the war and more importantly the truths they have learned about themselves.

Works Cited

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Penguin Group. London. 1995.

Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. Excerpts from In-Class handout. 2002.

O’Brien, Tim. Going After Cacciato. Broadway Books. New York. 1978.

O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. Penguin Group. New York. 1990.

Remarque, Erich M. All Quiet on the Western Front. Ballantine Books. New York. 1930.

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