Rationalizing the Fear Within
Both The Things They Carried and Apocalypse Now explore the trauma of the Vietnam War and its influence on soldiers' fears. Similar characters appear in both works, their identities crafted to represent different aspects of human nature. The protagonists, Captain Willard and Tim O'Brien, tell frame stories through their own points of view, giving the audience windows to the guilt and hollowness, death and savagery rife in war-torn Vietnam. Each finds himself suffocated by guilt, choking at an explanation for the endless, meaningless death and violence. Similarly, Chef, the private on Willard's boat, and Curt Lemon of O'Brien's platoon mirror each other with their immaturity, their carefree rambunctious behavior and their gruesome, avoidable deaths. With the protagonist of each story as its guide, the audience examines the degree to which fear and primal instincts consume the soldiers in the jungle. Fear in the hearts of men grows unhindered in each work, as both Willard and O'Brien strive to tell their stories as much as to placate their own fear of guilt and responsibility as to comment on the fear of others. The two works spin strikingly similar stories of insanity, guilt, and trauma, albeit through...
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