Sorrow of War: Social, cultural, and historical context

Sorrow of War: Social, cultural, and historical context

Context From the text







Historical/ political 1969: Lost Battalion at the Jungle of Screaming Souls (the end of dry season)
• Kien’s 27th Battalion surrounded and massacred: 10 survivors
• “Ten men survived from the Lost Battalion after fierce, horrible, barbarous fighting.”
Perpetuity of the war
• “Politics in the morning, politics in the afternoon, politics again in the evening.”
• “The world is divided into three camps.”
• “The path of war seemed endless, desperate, and leading nowhere.”
Rosa canina
• Equivalent to drugs, marijuana
• Diabolical; psychotropic effects including lethargy, arousing; hallucinating; “fueling erotic, obsessional dreams…left with a feeling of smoldering passion…”
• Banned by the political commissar as lethargy spread
Desertion
• Can’s desertion; filial piety; depression; desperation of himself and war
• “No one spoke of Can again. No one bothered to find out why he had died, whether he was killed or had just exhausted himself in the jungle, or whether he’d committed suicide. No one accused him, either.”
• “Disappeared with out a trace [Can’s existence].”





Social Communism + collectivist mentality
• “Better to die than surrender, my brothers!”
Card playing
• “But one by one the card players at their fateful table were taken away.”
• Bequeathal of luck
Tu to Kien at Saigon’s airport: “I’ll go into this fight. You keep them [card deck]. If you live on, gamble with life. Deuces, treys and fours all carry the sacred spirit of our whole platoon. We’ll bring you permanent luck.”
Peace
• “Peace is a tree that thrives only on the blood and bones of fallen comrades.”













Cultural Representations of death
• “In the days that followed, crows and eagles darkened the sky.”
• Aggravated by post-battlefield landscape: “The rainy season came, flooding the jungle floor, turning the battlefield into a marsh whose surface water turned rust-colored from the blood. Bloated human corpses… ”
Supernatural beliefs
• Lost Battalion at the Jungle of Screaming Souls gave birth to “numerous souls of ghosts and devils…wandering…drifting…refusing to depart for the Other World.”
• “Meet any old friends [dead]?” “Do you speak to them?”
• “The way you speak in hell. Thre are no sounds, no words. It’s like when you’re dreaming… You can look at each other, understand each other, but you can’t do anything for each other.”
Superstition/Omen/Mysticism
• Hallucinations from rosa canina
• “Hairy monsters with wings and mammals with reptilian tails, smelled the stench of their own blood…”
• Those horrible, ominous hallucinations were seen as “warnings of an approaching calamity, horrible and bloody…”
Filial piety
• Can’s desertion: “I used to ask myself why I’m down here while my old suffering mother is at home, helpless, day and night crying for her distant son. ”
Religious
• Altars, incense sticks, pray to honor the dead
• Comrade martyrs