By Leonard Unger;Jay Parini
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Extra resources for American Writers, Supplement XIX
As they endured “this time of phony war” (p. 65), some men were struck by illnesses, others by accidents; Gonzalez stepped on a mine and was shipped out of Vietnam, the platoon’s first loss. Another kind of loss began as well: Caputo’s innocence regarding the potential savagery of human beings was eroded when an Australian advisor returned from a firefight carrying a trophy, two human ears strung on a wire. Caputo explains his shocked reaction: “I had not expected to see such a thing ѧ the man holding it was a mirror image of myself—a member of the English-speaking world” (p.
Having embarked for Vietnam eager to prove his heroism and certain of the justness of fighting communism, he departed without illusions, having discovered his capacity not only for courage but also for savagery. S. withdrawal. During the intervening nine years, he finished his service with the marines at Camp Lejeune, receiving an honorable discharge in 1967, and then traveled in Europe, where he started writing what he initially believed would be a novel called A Rumor of War. In Means of Escape he explains that “traveling became an escape not from the commonplace but from the fits of depression and rage that were symptoms of Vietnam’s inner wounds” (p.
His newfound sense of liberation from the need to atone for his past is short-lived as he ends up being shot. DelCorso bitterly questions why, just after being redeemed for Rach Giang, he has been wounded. A colleague tells him that his luck has simply run out, a terrible insight that nullifies the code by which DelCorso has labored for the last decade. If the system of belief upon which he has based his conduct is an illusion, what will give him the will to live? In fact DelCorso does not survive at the end of the novel, supporting the view that his attempts to come to terms with the potential evil within himself, and the rest of humanity, is a fruitless endeavor that no number of photographs, no matter how honestly taken, will complete.
American Writers, Supplement XIX by Leonard Unger;Jay Parini