When Hell Was In Session is a very powerful and telling story of the prisoner of war experience at the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War. Jeremiah Denton tells us his story starting from childhood all the way through his imprisonment in Vietnam, trials, tribulations, outlooks, experiences and eventual release. The book really gives one a look from the other side of the fence if you will because, as one can certainly imagine, prisoners of war had a different outlook on the war in Vietnam than most because of their unique experiences. Some of the interesting outlooks that will be focused on through this paper will be the methods of adaptation and coping that were used by Denton and his fellow prisoners, the methods of torture that were implemented by the North Vietnamese, and last but not least, the impact that years of captivity had on Denton’s view of the war.
As one can imagine, being in a foreign place where you are the minority is a frightening experience all on its own. Now imagine being in a foreign place where in a moment’s notice, you can be killed or be held captive during a war. This is exactly what Denton is facing as the aircraft that he was piloting was being shot out of the skies over North Vietnam. As he ejects himself from his plain and is floating to the ground where enemy soldiers await him, the feeling and fear of the unknown come over him, and for good reason. Denton does not know it just yet but he will spend the better part of a decade being held as a prisoner of war in the prison camp dubbed as the “Hanoi Hilton” located as the name suggests, in Hanoi. As one learns later in the book, Denton’s mental and physical character will be put to the test with unimaginable torture, starvation, terrible conditions, and all out deprivation. Coping and adaptation of Denton’s situation will become a necessity of survival for him and his fellow prisoners. As far as a technique for adaptation, one could certainly argue that communication was the...
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