A Trauma Artist: Tim O'Brien and the Fiction of Vietnam by Mark A. Heberle

By Mark A. Heberle

A Trauma Artist examines how O'Brien's works variously rewrite his personal traumatization throughout the battle in Vietnam as a unending fiction that sarcastically recovers own event via either recapturing and (re)disguising it. Mark Heberle considers O'Brien's occupation as a author throughout the prisms of post-traumatic rigidity affliction, postmodernist metafiction, and post-World warfare II American political uncertainties and public violence.

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Additional info for A Trauma Artist: Tim O'Brien and the Fiction of Vietnam

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Different hemispheres, different scales of atrocity. I don’t want it to happen. I want to tell her things and be understood and live happily ever after. I want a miracle. That’s the final emotion. The terror at this ditch, the certain doom, the need for God’s intervention. ) from an unspeakable war crime into an unspoken anxiety between two lovers that will lead to their separation four months later. The narrator finds it difficult to “take leave” not only of Thuan Yen but of the woman he loves. The grave site of the My Lai Massacre and of America’s own righteous pretensions becomes a tomb for their relationship as well, poisoning love with its terrible influence.

Moreover (as recounted in Chapter XXII of Combat Zone ), he had later been a clerk under the battalion officer who shepherded journalists to the site in 1970, when the atrocity had been publicly revealed. In “The Vietnam in Me,” O’Brien reflects that he and his comrades had been as capable of such atrocities as Calley’s men but never crossed the line to cold-blooded murder. Instead of providing any personal self-validation or moral resolution, however, My Lai becomes a climactic site of trauma for O’Brien, one that spreads its obscene revelation to Kate and helps destroy their relationship.

S. political establishment that spring, as a resonant political and cultural event of the post-1945 world. ” Except for a black GI whose traumatic response to a white buddy’s death is captured in a haunting photograph by Larry Burrows, O’Brien is the only American soldier, and only American writer, whose name appears in the issue. His voice thus carries a doubled authority, and it is in his personal account that the war’s lack of closure for Americans is most decisively dramatized. Conversely, for the Vietnamese presented both in O’Brien’s piece and in the others, the war seems an event of history.

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