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The Inhumanity of War, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 316

Essay

The Inhumanity of War in O’Briens »The Things They Carried«

In The Things They Carried Tim O’Brien attempts to portray war as a brutal exchange of insensible killings, entirely distant from any ethical or moral principle. Hence, he writes “a true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done.” (65)

O’Brien thus develops the idea that the narrative about war means that this is a narrative without human meaning. Insofar as morals are guiding ethical principles that aid in pointing the individual towards what is a proper course of action, nothing can be found in war that may satisfy this principle. With this remark, stories about war, in O’Brien’s aesthetics, are meant to be stripped to brutish descriptions of the acts which occur. This is not a glorification of war, or trying to find some silver lining in the foggy cloud of war, but rather, the author must advance a faithful account that shows war in its inhumanity. By adding morals into war, the author would somehow justify war, even in its horror: this would show that something can be learned from war, and therefore, in some sense justify it.

Accordingly, O’Brien develops an image of war that is entirely separate from the higher human faculties. O’Brien’s artistic imperative essentially is a gesture of anti-art in regards to war, to the extent that war cannot be given any aesthetic value. To give war aesthetic value, to imbue it with a type of artistic meaning that can respond to people would mean the humanization of war, turning war into a form of communication. The properly artistic criticism of war is therefore an artistic portrayal of war that paradoxically abjures from any type of aesthetic quality which would domesticate war.

References

O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York: Mariner, 2009.

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