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After a soldier goes to war, the psychological and physical hardships that these men sustain continue to define them throughout their lives. Those who survive often carry a great amount of remorse, despair, and confusion because of what occurred. Many of them struggle to cope with the effects, not only immediate, but long-term as well.
The burdens that these men carry with them also have an equally devastating effect on their friends and loved ones as well. As badly as they want to put the horror of the war behind them, everyday occurrences in their lives bring back mental flashbacks that are not easily forgotten. Comparing Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” and Sean Huze’s “The Sandstorm”, one can conclude that a major theme in both stories is what kind of affect the horrors of war have on a soldier’s mental and physical state. Although both these authors have a common theme in that they deal with aftermath of war, their approach is much different.
In Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried”, the stories mainly deal with the soldiers who survived and their struggle to come to terms with their experience. Particularly in “Ghost Soldiers”, O’Brien begins to transform into a ruthless, angry and revengeful person, aiming to hurt Bobby Jorgenson the way he had hurt O’Brien. As he recalls, “Something had gone wrong. I’d come to this war a quiet, thoughtful sort of
person, a college grad, Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude, all the credentials, but after seven months in the bush I realized that those high, civilized trappings has somehow been crushed under the weight of the simple daily realities. I’d turned mean inside”, (O’Brien 227). “The Ghost Soldiers” accurately portrays O’Brien’s newfound anger and his separation from the outside world.
The brutal, and unexplainable uncertainty of war has now obscured O’Brien’s entire view of the world outside of war. He now does things out of vengeance, and he feels a need for unjustified revenge. He believes that he no longer has any kind of commitment to other people, and he wants people to feel the hurt that he has felt.
O’Brien uses his own storytelling and first hand accounts as a way to come to terms with the unimaginable horrors of war that he experienced while being a soldier in Vietnam. Like many soldiers, O’Brien believes and stands true to the fact that certain realities of war can never be explained whatsoever.
While O’Brien uses his own experiences to tell his experiences of war, Sean Huze tells his stories and encounters through a series of ten monologues, called “The Sandstorm”. In the format of a play, this story tells about the harsh realities the soldiers endure at war and its deep aftershocks. “The Sandstorm details the horrors of war in a much more intense manner than Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried”. This play transports the viewer into a world where young soldiers find themselves killing innocent men, women and children. Each character and its story has its own distinct way of explaining the horrors and killings of war and how it affected them not only during war, but more so after.
“The Sandstorm” transports the viewer into another world where death and destruction triggers guilt, shame, denial, and serious psychological effects in the real world. Many of the soldiers in this story are looking for a way out, a place to find a sense of peace and calmness. They are forever lost though, as they tell their stories one by one.
One specific character finds it exceptionally hard to deal with the guilt that he feels, especially when he returns home. As a Navy Paramedic, Doc finds himself struggling to stay strong when he attends to an Iraqi man whose family has just been killed. Surprisingly, this man thanks Doc for saving all his people. For the life of him, Doc can’t understand why this man would have so much gratitude when everyone he loved was just killed right in front of him. When he returns home, he wants nothing more than to forget, to let the past be just that, the past. But no matter how hard he tries, he cannot forget such a traumatic and life-changing experience.
Each character in the story wants the viewer to be in their shoes, to experience the pain and torture that war brought home with them. They can no longer lead a normal life due to the circumstances of the brutality of war. They have now lost all sense of reality and nothing will be like it was before. These soldiers’ first-hand accounts tell not only of the damage the soldiers suffered, but also the damage that inflicted their friends, family, and neighbors, and co-workers. These people are just as affected as their soldiers, and as Sean Huze points out, the dead were not the only casualties.
Sean Huze tells his horrors of war in a much different way than Tim O’Brien in the fact that Huze tends to rely heavily on distinct, single words to get his point across, whether it’s anger, sadness, or jealousy. Although this can be an effective way to get the
viewer’s/reader’s attention, it is used so much throughout the story that it soon becomes repetitive and in a sense takes the deep, dark emotion out of the story.
Clearly, both Tim O’Brien and Sean Huze use their own experiences to tell the horrors of war and how it affected them post-war, but they used different techniques to do so. While O’Brien’s stories are thought-evoking and powerful, Sean Huze’s play and writing is much more intense and really grabs the viewer’s attention.
In closing, Tim O’Brien’s stories and Sean Huze’s monologues were very similar in the fact that they both dealt with the real pain and suffering of the horror of war. It’s something that stays with a soldier for the rest of their lives, and it’s not something that can be easily forgotten.
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