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Defeating Death.

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Nan Ni Larson 6th October 24th, 2003 O'Brien Essay Defeating Death Scientist, writer and anthropologist Ernest Becker once said, "The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else; it is a mainspring of human activity - designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny of man." Human beings have always had a hard time looking death in the eye and often, they handle their emotions through the avoidance or distortion of the real. Tim O'Brien, who served as an infantry soldier in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970, has seen his share of death. He returned from the war sound in mind and body, if not spirit, and he tells powerful stories to endure his pain. In The Things They Carried, he presents us with two narratives in which the protagonists employ contrasting methods of coping with death: Tim, in The Lives of the Dead, brings the deceased back to life in his mind while Mary Anne chooses to add to the destruction around her in Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong. ...read more.


He keeps her memory alive by fabricating "elaborate stories" in which they are reunited (Lives, 808): "At nighttime I'd slide into sleep knowing that Linda would be there waiting for me...That's what a story does. The bodies are animated. You make the dead talk" (Lives, 809). In this way, Tim evades her death, because as Linda tells him, "'it doesn't matter'" (Lives, 806). Tim chooses to believe in Jack Lemmon's words: "Death ends a life, not a relationship." In Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong, however, death ended the relationship between Mark Fossie and Mary Anne Bell, although both are still living. Mary Anne feels the same anxiety towards death that Tim does, although she combats it in a different manner: instead of pretending that dying doesn't change anything, she is fascinated by death and wants more. Both Tim and Mary Anne feed on death. Death fuels Tim's imagination and whets Mary Anne's insatiable appetite for excitement. Our first image of Mary Anne is one of "long white legs and blue eyes and a complexion like strawberry ice cream" - red white and blue, the the very portrait of wholesome, mainstream America (Sweetheart, 104). ...read more.


He was emotionally attached to those whom he watched die. Mary Anne, on the other hand, has never seen a friend killed; those whom she slays are nameless and faceless to her. She adopts a "no kill, no thrill" attitude and decides that death "doesn't matter", although in more literal sense (Lives, 806). Sweet Mary Anne turned into an animal, for whom hunting was a favorite sport and "She was good at it; she had the moves" (Sweetheart, 124). If Mark Fossie had been shot upon her arrival in Vietnam, Mary Anne would have had the same emotional connection with death that Tim got from his experience with Linda and his comrades: She would realize how devastating is to be bereaved, how much it hurts when a loved one is gone. But because she hasn't had such experience, she slaughters humans the same way that she would pigs:"It was as if she were taunting some wild creature out in the bush...she was lost inside her head" (Sweetheart, 124). Veitnam was a costly war in terms Neither Tim or Mary Anne has truly come to terms with death. A dichotomy came about as a result of their experiences with death: Tim refuses to accept it's permanence while Mary Anne does not realize the horror of taking a human life. ...read more.

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