Sample Essay on The American War in Vietnam

The American War in Vietnam

The Vietnam War also known as the Second Indochina War elicited mixed reaction in the entire globe. As a result, it has inspired publications of various articles and books, and films that depict the incident and the plight of the war victims. In light of this, Journey from the Fall is an American film that was directed by Ham Tran and released in 2007. Similarly, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places is a book authored by Le Ly Hayslip about her escape during the Vietnam War. These texts highlight the events that occurred during the Vietnam and they depict similar themes and ideologies about the causes and the effects of the war. One of the significant themes in these texts is the aspect of how memory affects an individual’s identity. The past is used to define a person’s present life and identity. The characters keep on reflecting their past and using the memories to embrace their current lives. Memories refer to the mental reflection of past experiences that an individual endured or witnessed as they occurred. Human beings are characterized with eliciting memories which influence their lives either positively or negatively. Therefore, this paper highlights how memories affect a character present life and whether it affects the character’s identity. It also delineates how the authors address the issue of memories of their characters.

Le Ly is the protagonist in the book When Heaven and Earth Changed Placesdepicted as a young girl who experienced the atrocities associated with international crises. Le Ly was born in a village that falls in the midst of North and South Vietnam. The two regions were involved in a conflict and they scrambled for spies and subordinates. Le Ly was acquired as a spy for the northerners (Vietcong) at the age of twelve; unfortunately, she was captured and imprisoned. After her release, two soldiers threatened to kill her in the forest, but they rape and torture her instead. This incidence is repeated in the memoir by the author as she says that she will never forget the two soldiers, Loi and Mau. These memories have continuously brought mental imbalance in her life and she recalls the two soldiers as molesters and murderers. Similarly, the film journey from fall was applauded by the Vietnamese living in America after it was released citing that it depicted their plight. Most of them were refugees who sort asylum in America just like Le Ly Hayslip after fleeing their native country. The refugees were referred as the “boat people” andthis documentation brings ford memories of the Vietnam War.

Past recollections are so vivid that they affect how people view and relate with each other. Horrifying memories can bring hatred in the society and it affects their integration.  In the film, Long and his family has an opportunity of fleeing by boat voyage to the American soil. However, he is bombarded by the vague memories of the events happening in his country, he decides to remain and fight for his country. His gets encouraged by the recollections of the endurances that his fellow countrymen are undergoing; hence, he takes a stand to remain and fight. This memories hits Long like a wave and he suddenly gets intrigued in reuniting with his family.

Personal identity in these texts largely depends on the memories of the characters. As Bow asserts, the past can either build or destroy and individual (169). Some people will be motivated to soldier on while others will crumble and loose hope. In the book When Heaven and Earth Change Places, the past experiences motivate Le Ly to move on with her life. The book starts with Le Ly being as spy soldier. She experiences imprisonment at a very tender age. She even escapes death by a whisker. As a result, these endurances give her strength to persevere other challenges later in life. She gains the courage to fleeing from the country to find a peaceful place.On similar occurrence, Long is trapped in the re-education camps with all his hopes lost. His faith diminishes and he feels crumbled by the events that are occurring in the country. However, upon hearing that his family had succeeded in traversing the waters and landed in the United States, his hopes rejuvenate. He recalls his moments with his family, his position as a father, and the responsibilities that he holds in the community. These events show that past experiences and memories help an individual to realize his or her identity and make a coherent decision regarding the next move.

Another turn of events is elicited by Huyen, the mother to Le Ly when her daughter returns from her refugee country. Her mother receives her reluctantly in spite the fact that it is her own daughter. The main reason for this disconnect is that Le Ly is coming from the United States, the same country that was involved in their war. The memories of the horrendous experiences during the war make her cynical to her own daughter.  She sleeps on the floor when her daughter takes her to the hotel to symbolize that she still embraces her traditions and she is not assimilated in the western ways. Huyen behavior symbolizes how memories of an ugly scene can cause disconnect between former friends. She accepts her daughter and the western culture gradually; she represents the Vietnamese people who are slow but still learning to heal and forgive.

The memoir indicates that Le Ly observed American helicopters spray fire to the residents at a very tender age.  She could not communicate with them due to language barrier. This scene embedded in her mind and she viewed Americans as “beast” and “giants.” She even symbolizes the Americans as elephants and Vietnams as ants. She uses the word elephant to signify the brutality she witnessed be committed by the American soldiers. It dawned to her that the Americans were advanced technologically and they had war resources; hence, she equated them to elephants. The Vietnams were ants because they used outdated war techniques, but they still managed to attack and retaliate. The initial scene of Americans as humongous and brutal individuals defines her use of elephants as symbolic features.  Since the author is still the protagonist in the story, she finds it easy developing characters. This is the most significant importance of memories in the book of When Heaven and Earth Changed Places.Hayslip does not struggle with developing the story because she is employing first-hand information while narrating the innuendos of the Vietnam War. It is difficult to create such an intriguing story from mere creations and reviewing of publication as compared to writing from past experience. Ham Tran also realized the importance of first-hand experience while he was developing the script for the movie Journey from the Fall.He was forced to interview over four-hundred Vietnam refugees in America in order to get a clear understanding of the story. With the help of the information collected from these immigrants, he managed to write an impeccable story that culminated to an award winning film.

On the other hand, Memories brings healing and reconciliation as depicted by Le Ly in her memoir.The entire book outlines her misery and horrific experiences that leaves the reader skeptical. Firstly, she manages to get back to her country to see her family after running away for seventeen ways.  She remembers her family and her native country in spite of the experiences of torture, rape, and a lot of emotion distress. Secondly, Hyslap talks of a character by the name Anh who is a wealthy businessman with large household. Anh on his part is against the communist reform and he despises the ordinary people’s way of life. There is a social disconnecting between Anh and the poor peasants because he feels that he has better life than them. Conversely, when Le Ly returns to Siagon she meets him as a factory worker, bankrupt, and with challenging marital status. In spite his previous way of life, the society accepts him and accepts to live harmoniously.  The memories of his pride do not deter them from associating with him, but they embrace him back to the society. Reconciliation is still evident in the film by Ham Tran. Captain Nam is part of the pirates who slain the “boat people” who try to escape through the water voyage. He represents the greedy individuals who commit crime against humanity. Conversely, he helps Mai and the other escapees to the Orange County to try and adjust to their new life. Their initial ideological differences do not prevent them from associating and living together.

Hayslip’s book exposes the crimes and vices committed to her and her entire country by all the perpetrators involved in the Vietnam War. It highlights the effects of abusive power and dictatorial regimes that expose innocent people into atrocities. Although she is part and parcel of the war, her literal work is not partisan. She is not self-centered but propagates for the rights of the entire society. She elicits a humanitarian and kind heart that is very forgiving and embraces every one. She encourages people to take Vietnam War as a uniting rather than disengaging factor. Her memoir argues that both parties in the war made wrong choices and they should reconcile and encourage the victims in all ways possible. For the film, there is also an attribute of forgiveness and reconciliation. The author and the director of these texts do not use memories as disuniting tool, but encourage togetherness. They avoid using historic recrimination, but emphasizes on the importance of a reunion. Significantly, all the highlighted characters come into terms with their past and use the memories in embracing unity and re-building their relationship. Therefore, memories and past experiences should be used as uniting factor as depicted in the film Journey from the Falland the bookWhen Heaven and Earth Changed Places.

Works Cited

Hayslip, Le^.Ly’, with Jay Wurts. When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman’s Journey from War to Peace. New York: Penguin, 1989

“Journey From The Fall (2007)”. Rotten Tomatoes