Like the life cycle of a butterfly, different stages of war life provide different levels of interpretation to the loses of close ones; the more one matures, the more one’s interpretations diverge from their first impressions. Former North Vietnam soldier and author of The Sorrow of War, Bao Ninh, focuses his writing on such sacrifices made in the face of war and the impression it left on the individual to shine a light on how different situations are dealt with by soldiers and veterans. He does so through Kien, a forty-year old veteran, demonstrating how upon the beginning of his service, the sacrifices made by his comrades, leave him feeling guilty and unworthy, considering how he had little intention to live in the first place. As the novel progresses, Kien’s new responsibilities and maturity allow him to understand the necessity of one’s sacrifice when the lives of many others are put on the line. After the war, however, Kien’s confrontation with reality reveals how the losses of companions, friends and even his loved one, Phoung, had worked hand-in-hand to changed him so dramatically that he would forever struggle to slip back into civilian life. The many stages of Kien’s journey throughout the Vietnam War influence how differently he interprets, rationalizes, and copes with each sacrifice made. Kien, who had always been strong headed, had been drowned in bitter memories of guilt ever since the lost of his friends during war. Each time Kien was presented with near death situations, he managed to escape it at the sacrifice of another. From the time he first entered the war, he had come face-to-faced with a hulking enemy paratrooper who had cornered him and the two remaining soldiers over the top of small bank. The paratrooper had his AR15 aimed towards them as Kien “stiffened as the paratrooper put his finger on the trigger, expecting bullets to burst his rib cage open, rip his face, and send explosions of his blood around the jungle floor”...
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