Of all the things that brian recalls about Curt Lemon, why does this story from 'The Dentist' stand out enough to have its own chapter?
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Curt Lemon was one of O’Brien’s least favorite fellow soldiers. After Lemon was killed, O’Brien had a hard time mourning him. Lemon liked to act the macho man and take unnecessary risks. He once went trick-o- treating in a Vietnamese village on Halloween, to the horror and amazement of the villagers.
O’Brien says that it is not a good idea to glorify the dead or become sentimental about them. He tells the story of Lemon’s visit to the dentist to illustrate the point. One day a dentist came in on a helicopter to check up on the men’s teeth. Lemon was so afraid that when it was his turn he passed out in the dentist’s chair. Later, he was so ashamed that he woke up the dentist in the middle of the night. After rousing him out of bed, Lemon insisted that he had a toothache, and forced the dentist to remove one of his perfectly good teeth.
In this section, Lemon provides comic examples of conventional machismo. His swagger and bravado provide much needed humor to the troops. They considered his trick-and-treating caper a great joke. “The Dentist,” however, is a flashback. The reader already knows that it is precisely this bravado that will get Lemon killed. This provides dramatic irony, a literary technique by which the reader knows more about the character’s fate than the character himself.
O’Brien objects to both macho swaggering and trite aphorisms. He grants war a privileged status as a topic by circumscribing the ways in which it may be described. (He makes no such pronouncements, for example, about how to describe love, which is also dealt with in the book.) “War is hell,” does not qualify as a worthy war story, because it has no impact, according to O’Brien. Macho tales of violence and heroism like Lemon’s have too much impact, and are also unworthy. O’Brien argues that there is a right and a wrong form of storytelling.