In And After The War Young men who are sent to a war learn the reality in a very harsh and brutal way. Both the stories, ‘The Red Convertible’ and ‘The Things They Carried’ portray the life of a young soldier and how he psychologically gets affected from all the things he had seen in the war. Tim O’Brien’s ‘The Things They Carried,’ is more specific on the experiences of a soldier during a war where as Karen Louise Erdrich focuses more on describing the post war traumatic stress in her short story ‘The Red Convertible’. One thing similar in both the narrations is the Vietnam War and its consequences on the soldiers.
From the background of both the authors it’s easy to conclude that Tim O’Brien being a war veteran emphasizes more on the war scenes where as Louise Erdrich focuses mainly on the life inside the reservations, which makes sense as she has a Native American ancestry. In both the stories authors show & compare the human emotions of a soldier before and after he gets drafted into a war. In ‘The Things They Carried,’ the story revolves around a twenty two year old First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, a fresh graduate from New Jersey who is drafted and sent into the Vietnam War.
Tim O’Brien does a true justice to the title of the story and emphasizes on the physical strength of the soldiers, and how it gets tear down with all the situations they have been put through. At one point of the story he describes soldiers carrying mementos and objects for good luck superstitiously. For an instance, Dave Jensen one of the soldiers carried a rabbit’s foot and Norman Bowker carried a thumb that had been presented to him as a gift from a soldier of the same platoon, Mitchell Sanders.
He also successfully portrays the confused state of mind of a soldier, during the conversation between Henry Dobbins and Mitchell Sanders about the reason behind Sanders cutting off a thumb from a dead corpse of a fifteen or sixteen year old boy. Mitchell tries to make Henry understand that there was a moral behind what he did but Henry walks off speaking sarcastically and unconvinced. In Karen’s ‘The Red Convertible,’ the story is narrated by Lyman Lamartine who is the younger brother of Henry Junior who had just got back from Vietnam after the war was over.
The whole story is narrated in a flashback unlike Tim’s ‘The Things They Carried’ where the story moves back and forth in time. For example when the author describes the things that the soldiers carried in the very beginning of the story, he mentions Ted Lavender carrying six or seven ounces of premium dope until he was shot. Karen emphasizes more on the relationship between brothers and compares the state of mind in which they were before and after the war. The younger brother Lyman hadn’t changed much where as the elder brother Henry was completely a different person after he got back from Vietnam.
In both the stories authors have successfully shown the life of a young and happy bachelor until he was drafted to the war and then things changed drastically. In ‘The Things They Carried,’ author narrates Lieutenant Jimmy Cross as a romantic young boy who would carry letters from a girl named Martha. He knew there was no such thing as love between them but he would still be hopeful that things might work out his way after the war is over and when he is sent back home. In the later part of the story after one of his soldier dies, he blames himself for what had happened.
Though it can be argued that it wasn’t completely his fault but that’s what being in war can do to you. Whereas in ‘The Red Convertible’ author describes the life of the two brothers before and after the war without emphasizing much on what had happened during the war. In the whole story, the red convertible is used as a symbol of Henry and Lyman’s relationship. This is why I think Lyman drives the car into the lake, so he can bury all the memoirs which he had shared with his elder brother Henry.
With this act, the author might want to show that Lyman wanted to move on with his life and which is why he drowned the car into the lake after Henry jumped in. After reading both the stories one might say that ‘The Things They Carried,’ emphasizes on the life of a soldier in the war and ‘The Red Convertible’ can be a continuation of the soldier’s life after the war is over and he comes back home. In ‘The Things They Carried’ the reader would observe the emotional stress a soldier goes through during the war. In essence, ‘The Red Convertible’ shows how these emotional stresses can be suicidal later in a soldier’s life.