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Ch. 22: The Lives of the Dead 
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Post Ch. 22: The Lives of the Dead
Ch. 22: The Lives of the Dead

Please use this thread for discussing this chapter.



Fri Nov 07, 2008 9:36 am
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From chapter 9:
giselle
Quote:
there is a tremendous personal story here but i think there is also a wider political commentary. maybe i see it this way because, as the Vietnam war was ending in the early 1970's this was an issue that caught my attention, so i pick up O'Brien's emphasis on politics..............

O'Brien's genius, i think, goes beyond this ... beyond the standard narrative technique, to metanarrative


I think just using Vietnam (Nam) as the setting is politically charged and many stories have been written with the bigger political commentary in mind, so automatically all this is read in to the novel. I think O'Brien is doing just the opposite. He is focusing on the individuals and what it meant to each of them, how bizarre, twisted, meaningless, damaging it was, but on a more individual basis. One way he shows us this by the ironic 'morals' attributed to some of the stories. He is saying, I am not using this as a metanarrative. This is not showing a big truth about life, but just the way it was for some of us. P80'The truths are contradictory'



Wed Dec 03, 2008 12:55 pm
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hmm, yes and no. I think O'Brien does tell the story from a deeply personal perspective, including the conclusion of the book where he relates the story of his youthful love for Linda. his inclusion of his daughter is another way the story takes on a personal, individual perspective, hence 'this i how we saw the war' from an individual perspective is central to the novel.

but i think there is a lot more going on in this book. my spin, which I will advance just for fun, is that O'Brien has written a post modern novel and that it is a reflection of how individuals and society ( in this case mostly American society) are coping with the war experience. he uses post modern styles and themes (if there is such a thing), fragmentation in structure and theme, blurriness of truth, ethical/moral standards reduced to ashes, loss of absolutes, loss of faith (in religion and in a broader meaning of faith), loss of meaning (what did the war mean and to whom?) and use of a metanarrative perspective, ie 'how to tell a war story'.


p81 To generalize about the war is like generalizing about peace. almost everything is true. almost nothing is true.

the inability to generalize, fragmentation, loss of meaning and truth as absolutes .. post modern perspectives.

so, if we take a post modern perspective on this debate, we are both right and both wrong at the same time, right and wrong co-exist and that's ok. weirdly, in the post modern way, the possibility of debate and argumentation disappear, at least with respect to proving one right and the other wrong if right and wrong are mutually exclusive. to the extent that one reads from a post modern perspective , we the readers become players in O'Brien's (meta) narrative and we question our own feelings about truth, our own worldviews. alternately, from a modernist perspective, this is a narrative about a war and the individuals that fought in it and how it affected them.

we are free to choose a perspective and neither is wrong.



Thu Dec 04, 2008 3:11 pm
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giselle
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is that O'Brien has written a post modern novel and that it is a reflection of how individuals and society ( in this case mostly American society) are coping with the war experience.


This I agree with, at least the individuals, not so much society. I just didn't think it was a political statement about Vietnam which is what I thought you were saying in a previous post. But, yes this is a novel that can be read on many levels and because it is full of short stories, each one of them could have small significance as well as the larger overall theme.

I did not read anything about O'Brien or comments about this novel before reading it as I this is the way I like to read books. So, today I have read a few reviews and opinions.

This is from an article in the New York Times:

Quote:
But the book is not about Vietnam and not about war, Tim O'Brien said in a telephone interview from his home in Boxford, Mass.
So what's the book about? ''It is a writer's book on the effects of time on the imagination. It is definitely an antiwar book; I hated the war from the beginning. [The book] is meant to be about man's yearning for peace. At least I hope it is taken that way.''
BARTH HEALEY



Fri Dec 05, 2008 12:23 pm
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This...

giselle
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so i pick up O'Brien's emphasis on politics..............


is what I disagreed with as I did not see this emphasis on politics.



Fri Dec 05, 2008 12:29 pm
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And this..

Giselle
Quote:
this is a narrative about a war and the individuals that fought in it and how it affected them.


I agree with completely.



Fri Dec 05, 2008 12:33 pm
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realiz wrote:
giselle
Quote:
is that O'Brien has written a post modern novel and that it is a reflection of how individuals and society ( in this case mostly American society) are coping with the war experience.


This I agree with, at least the individuals, not so much society. I just didn't think it was a political statement about Vietnam which is what I thought you were saying in a previous post. But, yes this is a novel that can be read on many levels and because it is full of short stories, each one of them could have small significance as well as the larger overall theme.

I did not read anything about O'Brien or comments about this novel before reading it as I this is the way I like to read books. So, today I have read a few reviews and opinions.

This is from an article in the New York Times:

Quote:
But the book is not about Vietnam and not about war, Tim O'Brien said in a telephone interview from his home in Boxford, Mass.
So what's the book about? ''It is a writer's book on the effects of time on the imagination. It is definitely an antiwar book; I hated the war from the beginning. [The book] is meant to be about man's yearning for peace. At least I hope it is taken that way.''
BARTH HEALEY


This sheds a lot of light on O'Brien's book, thank you, and I agree it is best to struggle with meanings before finding out what the author "meant". Of course we all bring our own lens to reading and we take away whatever we choose and that is a beautiful thing.

And thank you for finding a warmer, friendlier fog .. "fingering out to the road and reaching for me like the shade of a beloved friend."



Fri Dec 05, 2008 6:58 pm
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Post Linda
I reread the last chapter of this book because I had wondered about a couple of things. The story of Linda, his childhood sweetheart, had seemed out of place on my first read but now I see more clearly how it might fit. Through memory he is able to travel back to his young love for Linda and to a time of childish naiivety and deal with the loss of Linda as well. In this, he finds some peace. This also raises a point I found interesting, which is the role of his female characters. There seems to be a lot of symbolism and meaning there, but I don't think I fully understand it.

Thinking about how he closes the novel, I reflected back on his title and the first chapter where he describes the physical things they carried and how he then moves on to develop the theme. I think he did a good job of conveying a sense of weight, of burden, and the search for peace as time passes and imagination does its work ... I think this will be the lasting impression that will stick with me long after I put this book down.



Sat Dec 06, 2008 4:57 pm
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I also wondered about that chapter as well. I think it is about the loss, how much loss can affect you at any age. O'Brien talks about how much he loved Linda, how real the love was despite their young age and how much that loss was remembered even when he was 43. I guess this book was about loss and burden, the burden of memories that is carried around and not easy to put down.

I am trying to remember all the women: the picture of girlfriend in the first chapter, the visiting girlfriend who goes wild, O'Brien's daughter, the girlfriend with the pantyhose, the old girlfriend of the guy who drives around the lake who he thinks about visiting, but doesn't ever, the dancing girl, that's all I can think of right now. All the women are shadowy figures on the edges of the stories without real identity, but they have great significance in these men's lives.



Mon Dec 08, 2008 7:54 pm
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realiz wrote:
All the women are shadowy figures on the edges of the stories without real identity, but they have great significance in these men's lives.


They are shadowy figures and their characters are not well developed and I agree they have great significance to the men ... what seems ambiguous is the relationships between the men and the women, perhaps indicating how the emotional baggage that the men carry interferes with their ability to relate to the women, leaving the women as significant in their lives but somehow distant and removed from their lives at the same time. Also, along the lines of the effect of time on the imagination, O'Brien's act of "imagining" these women can result in ambiguity and a shadowy quality, a lack of clear definition as to who they really are ? That's more of a question really, just thinking out loud.



Wed Dec 10, 2008 1:45 pm
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