Contrast Peer Influence In The Sorrow Of War English Literature Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

The theme of companionship in the novels "The Sorrow of War" (hereafter "Sorrow") and "The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea" (hereafter "Sailor") plays a key part in creating the essence of each character, including the protagonists, of each novel. For example, in "Sailor", the varying perception of Ryuji Tsukazaki by Noboru Kuroda and his gang, and in "Sorrow", Kien's loss of innocence after witnessing the countless murders and atrocities committed to his friends and comrades in arms. Both Mishima and Ninh use the culture - in "Sailor", the Bushido code of honor and gallantry, and in "Sorrow" the significance of dead family and the mandatory nature of the worship of ancestors - among other factors to emphasize the effect of peers on each other.

Seemingly harmless and instead even acting as a encouragement to many students as the embodiments of integrity, the chief actually is a master of deception when it comes to concealing their true intentions, for example, when the old watchman of Yamauchi Pier came to check on the boys, 'with admirable poise, the chief beamed a scrubbed schoolboy smile at the old man and said: "Would it be better for us to go somewhere else? We came down to watch the ships, and then we were looking or a shady place to have lunch..."' (Mishima, 2000), P. 52 After the watchman leaves, Number four speaks about him in a condescending manner "There are plenty of that type around-about as common as you can get, and he just loves the youngsters.' I bet he felt so generous just now" (Mishima, 2000), P. 53 Where the wise and utterly unique chief is concerned, everyday normality is a sin, and therefore all of his followers successively denounce the watchman, which shows the power of the chief and the willingness of his followers to obey him and how his deceit can influence anybody, even the watchman especially Noboru at the end of the novel.

On the other hand, although Kien in "Sorrow" may be in the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) fighting with his fellow comrades, "his Battalion 27 was surrounded and almost completely wiped out. Ten men survived from the Unlucky Battalion" (Ninh, 1994), P. 2, which means that most of his companions were either dead or missing by the end of the war. "The entire platoon of thirteen was safe...only the torn, dirty set of cards, fingerprinted by the dead ones remained." (Ninh, 1994), P. 6, which is ironic, because whereas the cards were expendable, the priceless lives of people were being taken away, and lives were expended until "The cards were last used when the platoon was down to just four soldiers… [:] Vinh, 'Big' Thinh', Cu, Oanh, Tac the Elephant" (Ninh, 1994), P. 6. This, for Kien, invokes a sense of horror and fear, because although his friends are dead, the cards are fingerprinted by his dead comrades, and where everyone respects the dead with proper burials and services, the cards may be a representation of their graves and therefore, putting the fear of God into Kien. Because this is only the beginning of the book and we already read about all of this death, we can already expect that Kien will be affected even more by the death of his peers and fellow soldiers during the following moments in the text.

One such death would be the death of a well-disciplined soldier who envied Kien's transfer - 'Rattling' Can, who "always longed for the opportunity to get into an officers' training course…No disobedience, no gambling, no alcohol, no dope, no women, no swearing. And for what? All for nothing! I'm…just depressed" (Ninh, 1994), P. 16. Here we can see the desperation of Can, who wants to leave the war front for good and so does Kien, who "turned and looked curiously at Can. You occasionally found such traumatized misfits in the army. Their chaotic minds, their troubled speech, revealed how cruelly they were twisted and tortured by war…He had seen Can only as a trusty farmer who'd gradually adjusted to the hell of the battlefield." (Ninh, 1994), P. 17 Despite Kien's persuasive effort, Can rejects his rationality and deserts: "No. I'm off. Win or lose, sooner or later, that means nothing to me. My life is fading fast and I still have to see my mother once more" (Ninh, 1994), P. 18. "Kien stood there, staring, then burst into tears, the rain washing over his face as the tears gushed out." (Ninh, 1994), P. 19 Kien is ashamed that he let a lower ranking soldier desert without question, and that decision will haunt him.

A few months later, he receives a letter from Can's mother: "[I have] received your letter… continue to live and hope, my dear son…since receiving word of your brother's death…and getting the Patriotic Certificate, my dear son, I have worked night and say in the ricefield…I pray to always to Heaven, and the ancestors, your late father and brother." (Ninh, 1994), P. 20 Kien is full of sorrow and sympathy towards Can's mother at this point, and was only intensified as he learned that Can had died, and that "Crows had pecked away Can's face; his mouth full of mud and rotting leaves…His eye-sockets were hollow, like trenches. In that short time moss and slime had already grown over him". Again, this quote invokes fear to both Kien and the reader because of the ugliness of the imagery and the description, contrary to the previous fear, which was psychological, and is now physiological. This variation of pain and suffering of his peers clearly scars Kien, as already (by Pg. 20) he is scarred psychologically as well as physiologically.

The fact that only Kien understood the misery and grief of the transpiring events must have been excruciating, knowing that he could have prevented Can from deserting for him to read his mother's letter. "Kien recalled Can's voice. And each time Kien knelt in prayer before the platoon's altar to the war martyrs Kien would `whisper a word for Can's soul, the soul of a mate who had died in humiliation, uncared for and misunderstood, even by Kien." (Ninh, 1994), P. 21 Can's desertion and eventual death is a turning point for Kien, as he experiences first hand, the psychological and ideological damage you can gain from a war, which ultimately leads to his own bout of depression and addiction to alcohol.

Similarly in Sailor, ideology, most notably the ideology of Bushido as well as parts of Nihilism, plays a large part in determining the fate of Ryuji as he engages Noboru's mother. Although initially, Ryuji was portrayed to the gang by Noboru as a man who "traced a ridge of gold across his shoulders" (Mishima, 2000), P. 12, as a solitary man who had travelled the world and the seven seas, Noboru at the time, revered him as a gold statue. However, as Ryuji got more and more into Noboru's mother, the chief comments that "There's just one way to make him a hero again…but I can't tell you what it is yet", which leads Noboru and the gang to forcibly deal with Ryuji (his ultimate demise).

This opinion of fathers being "guilt of grievous sin" (Mishima, 2000), P 8 and "evil itself, laden with everything ugly in man" (Mishima, 2000), P. 136 is intensified when, as usual, the chief talks about his personal experience when "his parents had dragged him off on a sightseeing trip to Kyoto and Nara…I was rubbing noses with my folks for the first time in quite a while. Fathers!" (Mishima, 2000), P. 130 The chief also comments on his follower's fathers and reinforces his claim that "fathers are the scum of the earth".

Violence is also a matter that the protagonists of each novel are compelled to commit by their companions. In "Sailor" the method of violence is obscure, but is largely carried out into two key scenes: The first being the cat killing scene and the second, where Ryuji is poisoned and awaits certain death. In the cat killing scene, the gang is in the chief's "hollow house [which] nourished the chief's ideas of the overwhelming emptiness of the world" (Mishima, 2000), P. 55-56. This furthers our understanding of the gang's solipsistic tendencies, that nothing is true and everything is permitted, unlike the "stand in the way of our progress while they try to burden us with their inferiority complexes, and their unrealized aspirations, and their resentments, and their ideals, and their sins, and their sweeter-than-honey dreams, and the maxims they've never had the courage to live by-they'd like to unload all that silly crap on us, all of it!" (Mishima, 2000), P. 136-137. The chief builds up the hate towards the paternal figure - particularly Ryuji in the case of Noboru - until his final act upon Ryuji in the final scene.

"After hunting for an hour [and finding] a stray cat…they were sweating heavily…while they bathed, the kitten was passed around…There's a log over there. We can smack it against that−it'll be easy." (Mishima, 2000), P. 56-57 Here, the gang is preparing to kill the cat, to "test Noboru's hard cold hard heart…His chest felt like a clothes rack made of hollow metal poles and hung with white shirts drying in the sun." (Mishima, 2000), P. 57 This is a reference to the quote "He never cried… for hard-heartedness was a point of pride…A large iron anchor withstanding the corrosion of the sea and scornful of the barnacles and oysters that harass the hulls of ships…Someday he would have an anchor tattooed on his chest." (Mishima, 2000), P. 9, where Noboru pursues his dream of being a "large iron anchor", meaning that he wanted to be a lump of metal that didn't decay or age, but still fulfilling its purpose for eternity, which is ironic, as he wanted the "anchor tattooed on his chest", as the chest is where the heart is located.

The "hollow metal poles" is the condition of his heart right now; although comprising of metal and therefore, making him heartless, the poles are hollow, meaning that he is still unsure of the action that he is contemplating. However, when he had killed the cat, "He felt like a giant of a man." (Mishima, 2000), P. 58, revealing that the slaying of the animal, made him feel all powerful and in control, which is a overshadowing of what actions he may execute against Ryuji in the final scene, making his then hollow heart a solid one. "You did a good job. I think we can say this has finally made a real man of you" (Mishima, 2000), P. 61 clearly states that Noboru was basically indoctrinated to kill him, by systematically giving him compliments and praise, the chief has successfully programmed Noboru to do whatever he pleases, perhaps planning on murdering Ryuji at this stage of time, when the chief discovered that he was a no good, gold digging father in the making, while the oblivious Noboru feels that by killing the kitten all by himself, Noboru feels that he has accomplished something.

On the other hand, in "Sorrow", the violence is more straightforward, as it is a war novel after all. However, another especially violent and sorrowing tale of war includes the account of Oanh, where he "had been sympathetic [to the dead]" (Ninh, 1994), P. 98. Oanh and Kien were clearing a building, when "three figures like white blurs flashed past them and rushed upstairs 'They're women! Don't shoot,' shouted Oanh…But Kien had already shot the three uniformed women and they fell back down the stairs" (Ninh, 1994), P. 96As they cleared the room and checked on the body, "Kien didn't hear the shots that killed Oanh…She had shot Oanh in the back several times…the girl lifted the pistol in both hands and aimed at Kien…She pulled the trigger but nothing happened." This scene is especially dismaying, as Kien was the one who shot the girls and Oanh was the one who was sympathetic of the girls, but the fact that he was shot instead of Kien must be a shock for Kien, as he was the one who should have died.

In conclusion, companionship and alliances play a crucial part in building up the plot and suspense in each novel, as Noboru becomes more and more indoctrinated and Kien becomes more and more disbelieving in terms of his opinions on life and death, and how his loss of innocence, especially with 'Rattling' Can, with whom he experienced the first psychological pain and horror.