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The utter lack of sound is often referred to as silence. Silence is critical in a war situation because it gives the attacking party an advantage over the opposing party. The quiet provides them with a strategic edge. To ensure the degree of silence, the soldiers must be extremely disciplined. Sanders describes silence as the moral of the story. The writer, on the other hand, claims that in a war story, getting to the moral involves unraveling the yarn, which often has a deeper meaning. This analysis mainly looks at the story told by Mitchel sanders about 6 men sent out on a mission to listen for the enemy who ended up bombing the mountains and destroying it based on voices they created in their heads.
Sanders’ states that silence is the moral of the story he had told. In essence we can state that he took this as the moral of the story as it took a lot of discipline for the soldiers to maintain the silence they did. In Sanders’ story we get to see discipline required of and portrayed by the soldiers. The 6 troop patrol was exposed to deafening silence that resulted in hallucinations. According to the narrator Sanders vividly explained how the soldiers maintained silence, "We're talking regulation, by-the-book LP. These six guys, they don't say boo for a solid week. They don't got tongues. All ears." (pg. 69). The main point brought out here is discipline. It takes a lot of discipline to maintain silence to the point of not making a sound at all but just listening. In the story, we can see how the team did everything by the book including calling for the mountains to be bombed and attacked when they started hearing voices even if they were just their hallucinations. He takes silence to be the moral of the story as he knows just how much effort it takes for one to maintain that level of silence.
In saying that silence was the moral of the story, Sanders means that he told the story as a way of reducing the silence that was ensuing among them as they were sitting at the narrator’s foxhole. He indirectly relates the looming silence between them and the story that he told. “I remember how peaceful the twilight was. A deep pinkish red spilled out on the river, which moved without sound…”(pg. 68). We can see that setting for the story told by the narrator showed that there was silence between them at the time. Sanders than tells a story about the damages prolonged silence can have as a way to squash the silence between them. The writer does not necessarily believe by the story to be true but the silence is broken and time passes. The story Sanders tells shows how silence led the 6 troop patrol team to start hallucinating and the expensive damages it resulted in. It was a teaching from Sanders to the narrator to avoid silence during the time they were deployed as it could have catastrophic results.
Using silence as the moral, Sanders also pointed towards mortality and death. The troops had radios with them to signal back if they heard anything. Silence thus showed that there were no troops around them from the enemies’ side. However, sounds and noise would mean that there was life where the noise came from. In their hallucinations, the soldiers heard glee and an opera going on which in essence are signs of human life. They thus used 6 trillion of firepower to attack the mountains and extinguish any signs of life. Silence in essence signifies death as the dead cannot talk. Sanders’ says, "Around dawn things finally get quiet. Like you never even heard quiet before.” (pg. 71). The quiet is used to signify that the fight was over that the enemy troops were dead. The noise did not stop however since it was all in their heads.
O’Brien clearly shows how in war, the conventions of good and evil as seen in a civilized society are lost. The war changes people. We see this when Rat starts shooting the baby buffalo as a way to numb his pain and no one does anything but they all just watch. E.g. of this scenario is “He put the rifle muzzle up against the mouth and shot the mouth away. Nobody said much. The whole platoon stood there watching, feeling all kinds of things, but there wasn’t a great deal of pity for the baby water buffalo.” (Pg. 75). In a civilized society, that would be considered animal battery which in some states is punishable by law. When Rat leaves, the other soldiers throw the baby buffalo in a well even without it being dead. Sanders’ says that in war, new sins that did not exist before are created. Morality is redefined. In overall, the story challenges the reader to consider whether there is such a thing as right or wrong and whether truth exists as well as whether the idea of morality is flexible depending on the context within which the characters are. It is clearly evident that the conventions that guide human behavior in a civilized society differ from those in war.
O'Brien, Tim. "How to Tell a true War Story." O'Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. Houghton Mifflin, 1990. 64-82. Web.
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