As a young boy, Tobias Wolff struggled with the fact that his father left him and his family. It was obviously very difficult for him to grow up without a father, especially because he saw the relationships those around him had with their fathers, and he wanted his father to be there to give him the approval he so strongly desired. This, of course, is something that lots of both children and parents, mother or father, go through today. After having kids, some parents, sadly, may decide that the parenting life just isn’t for them, and they leave. This can cause tremendous effects on the children, leaving the child with, what some may call, “daddy issues.” Unfortunately, these behaviors among parents have been going on for a very long time in the past, are going on in the present, and likely will continue to happen far into the future.
In chapter 3, Wolff was being targeted for being a white man amongst the Vietnamese. One night, he was mistaken for another white man, and was attacked outside of a Vietnamese bar. This is extremely similar to the way that people of color are being treated today. You will often hear on the news of black men who are shot because somebody “confused” them for a criminal or a threat. For example, Stephon Clark was shot to death on March 21, 2018, after police mistook his cell phone for a tool bar. In both situations, two men were falsely accused and punished by people who are seen as the majority or “privileged’ in their area.
In chapter 2, Wolff feels incompetent compared to the other soldiers. He thinks that because they are so much more experienced yet still scared, he must not be able to handle what awaits them. I felt like I could somewhat relate to Wolff during this time because of the views I had about myself a few years ago. Growing up in advanced classes in elementary school and all honors in middle school, I was mostly surrounded by the “smart kids.” So pretty much, all my friends were really smart, and as you would expect from a middle schooler, I didn’t think I was good or smart enough for them. If they told me they were nervous for a test, I got ten times more nervous. If they didn’t want to take a class because it seemed too difficult, you better believe I was not signing up for that class.
After accidentally ruining the homes of the villagers with the helicopter he ordered, Captain Kale felt very guilty. But the villagers didn’t seem to care that he felt sorry, only that he ruined their village. Though my relation to this is somewhat a reach, I still think that it ties in with a recent event in my life. I had the same group of best friends since sixth grade, but recently it was really hard for me to get along with them, and slowly the group became more like two subgroups. The rest of the girls still all spoke to each other, but I only talked to two of the girls, who told me that the rest of them were confused as to why I was being so distant. I decided it would be best to send them a message about why I was acting this way and apologize for “ghosting.” they both said they accepted my apology and for a few days I thought things were all good. But recently, I’ve noticed that one of them is being very mean and excluding me from conversations with the girls. To me, she is the villagers, and to her, I am Captain Kane who “ruined the village,” or in this case the friend group.
In chapter 8, Wolff talks about breaking a bowl of Pete’s out of anger, and later reveals that it was only something he’d imagined doing. “Really, now. Is the part about the bowl true? Did I do that? No. Never. I would never deliberately take something precious from a man”. This reminds me of the movie Mean Girls, when Cady gets upset with Regina in the cafeteria, and imagines pushing her down and fighting her. They both imagine things that they would like to do out of anger, but would never actually do.
The major characteristics of Tobias Wolff include the issues he has about his thief and lying father leaving and the need to make his mother proud after already being a disappointment to her. To do this, he decides to do something grand, and he joins the army. As a character overall, he reminds me a lot of Meredith Grey, from the television show, Grey’s Anatomy. She also comes from a home with a father who leaves her at a young age, and has a mom who is never proud of her no matter what. To make up for this, Meredith becomes a brilliant surgeon, just like her mother. Her father also comes into the picture later in her life, just like Tobias’ father.
Tobias Wolff decided to write this book in chapters, which were divided into 3 parts. I think these 3 parts are symbolizing 3 major portions of his life. Each section was very different from the next, they showed 3 very different versions of Tobias Wolff. The first part showed a version of Tobias that was mostly his life before the war and before he was feeling confident about being in the army. Part two definitely shows a more confident and matured Tobias, who was more aware of what war meant and what it was like to be so involved in it. Part 3 shows Tobias after the war, living life as a civilian, but still haunted by the war. I think he did a really good job of showing how much he really changed throughout the war, and before and after it as well, and dividing the book into three sections made it clearer for me.
The way Tobias Wolff describes very horrible events is very different to me. I’m used to reading books that emphasize the sadness of certain events, the way Wolff explains them is almost monotone to me. Although he doesn’t emphasize the sadness, I can still fully understand the severity of the events, and to me, the way he explained them sometimes made me feel like he had even grown numb to experiencing and seeing these things happen. “I’d seen a two-and-a-half-ton truck blown right off the road by one of those land mines just a few vehicles ahead of me in a convoy coming back from Saigon. The truck jumped like a bucking horse and landed on the side of a ditch”. Wolff sounds like he’s talking about just everyday regular things, when in reality it’s a tragedy that he has just come to expect.
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