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Chrystian MunozMay 9, 2016Professor Raymond Masullo English Composition II, ENGL 112-61Essay # 4: Research paperPost Traumatic Stress Disorders in The Things They Carried From 1965 to 1975 the Vietnam was the longest war in American history and themost unpopular American war of the twentieth century. It resulted in thousands ofAmerican deaths and millions of Vietnamese lives. Thousands of young soldiers that left theUnited States to enter a war zone where many of them faced unimaginable scenes of deathand chaos. Most of these individuals struggled with some form of Post-traumatic StressDisorder (PTSD) brought on by combat trauma, diseases by the exposure in the jungle andguilt by the terrible actions they have made. Among soldiers who exhibited signs of PTSDafter Vietnam, some of them overcame their difficulties while others failed to resist themental disorder’s devastating effects. Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien is both the narrator and protagonist in his combatnovel The Things They Carriedrecounts his personal experience in the Vietnam War andallows him to comment on the war. His point of view shapes the events he relates. In many,if not most, cases, O’Brien holds himself up as evidence for the generalizations he makesabout the war. He also explores the effects of mental trauma on soldiers in the Vietnam Warwith vivid narration of the struggles experienced by him and those around him. 1
A subgroup of Vietnam veterans suffering from combat-related Post TraumaticStress Disorder (PTSD), committed atrocities while serving in Vietnam. Years after theirservice in Vietnam ended, certain veterans continue to exhibit shame, guilt, self-hatred anda sense of being interminably unforgivable, all feelings related to the atrocities theycommitted. In this paper, the inability of these veterans to express remorse is seen as a keydynamic in their treatment.Although, various descriptions of PTSD are presented in The Things They Carried,PTSD is never directly named or associated with anyone in the story. For instance, we knowthat Ted Lavender did self-medicate because he probably had PTSD. Taking the drugs madethe war seem easier, so he did not have to face the traumatic events of war as O’Brien’swrites, “Ted Lavender, who was scared, carried tranquilizers until he was shot”(518). Hegoes on describing Ted’s drug addiction, “Ted lavender carried six or seven ounces ofpremium dope, which was a necessity”(518). Lavender drug abuse was a problem thatmany soldiers in the Vietnam War struggled with. Many soldiers like Lavender try toseparate from reality in some form in order to survive the daily dangers and stress that thewar offered. Veterans struggling with PTSD often resort to drugs and alcohol to help alleviate themental stress they experience on a daily basis. Because the psychological pain persists foryears, veterans’ who retreat to alcohol and drugs to lessen the pain associated with PTSDoften become substance abusers. According to a study on addiction and PTSD by JosefRuzek, “73% of veterans with PTSD also have problems with substance abuse. Drowning
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Vietnam War, United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Psychological trauma, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Complex post-traumatic stress disorder