As a lot of my classmates mentioned, I was not excited about reading a book about war. It seems so hard to relate to - I would never want to go to war. I would never want to kill a person. I would never want to risk my life or others' lives for a cause that I didn't believe in. So I somewhat reluctantly began reading The Things They Carried... and, much to my surprise, enjoyed it.
The field trip we had was what made me realize exactly why I am enjoying a book about war. The veterans that visited our school talked about how they thought about dodging the draft and running to Canada, or how they signed up before they got drafted so they would be placed anywhere but in Vietnam. And it really sank in when they all said that they were drafted pretty much right out of high school, at ages eighteen or nineteen.
That was when I realized: the Vietnam War soldiers are not at all hard to relate to. They didn't want to go to war - they were forced to go. They didn't want to kill anybody. They would do anything to stay out of Vietnam. And they were just older than me, fresh out of high school.
This is why we all enjoy the novel: we can connect to the characters. We are lucky enough to live in a time in which there is no draft, but if there were a draft for the war in Iraq, we would only have a couple of years before most of us would be thrust into a war that we don't necessarily support, risking our lives for a cause we don't believe in. When I read this book, I put myself in O'Brien's shoes and wonder if I would have run to Canada, whether I would have been able to endure the warfare and stomach the bloodshed, and whether I would be able to cope with my friends dying all around me.
It's not happening now. But it could. Scary, right?