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Herr-Wolfe - Everett Sheen Page 1 When comparing the two...

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Everett Sheen Page 1 5/7/2009 When comparing the two pieces, “Dispatches” by Michael Herr and “The Right Stuff” by Tom Wolfe, it becomes apparent that both authors are trying to convey stories about heroism. However, both authors are not telling the same side of the story. Tom Wolfe is telling the tale of Chuck Yeager, who he believes is the All American hero, a person who should be looked up to as a role model. Michael Herr on the other hand is recounting events from the Vietnam War. In his excerpt, Herr is trying to tell a narrative about how the war was a nightmare and in fact was anti-heroic in the sense that no real “heroes” could be found. Both pieces are littered with profanity; however, it is the way that both authors employ it that sets their stories apart. Tom Wolfe uses is it as an accepted way of talking in his characters day to day life. It is also strategically placed to help enhance Yeager’s masculinity and form the readers’ opinion of him as an American hero. Michael Herr also uses it as an accepted way of talking, but the major difference is that the profanity used in “Dispatches” is heartbreaking in its use and adds to the bleakness of the war. The two pieces also have the use of female characters in common but they way that they are utilized differs drastically. Wolfe uses his female characters as supporting actresses in an attempt to enhance the qualities of Chuck Yeager that he feels are heroic. Herr takes the opposite route; the female characters in his story are portrayed as no more than mere objects and can be looked upon as an important index of tragedy. Herr’s story is told not in any semblance of order, but in erratic sections, each one different from the last. This adds to the sense of chaos and confusion that would have been felt in the middle of a war. In contrast Wolfe’s piece is told in chronological order, with a clear beginning, middle,
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Everett Sheen Page 2 5/7/2009 and end. These two authors have employed the same techniques but in different ways with the hope of telling their diverse stories of heroism. “People she liked were old bastards and sonsabitches, too. ‘ I tol’ ‘at ol’ bastard to get ‘is ass on over here and I’d g’im a drink’.” (p.401) Tom Wolfe uses profanity like this throughout his piece “The Right Stuff”. The bad language that Wolfe uses does not have any negative connotation associated with it. Instead it serves two purposes; the first is to establish that this was the accepted way of talking at the air base and second to help enhance the picture of masculinity of Yeager in the readers mind. “You went to Pancho’s and knocked back a few and listened to the screen doors banging […] and to Pancho classifying the whole bunch of them as old bastards and miserable peckerwoods. That was what you did if you were a pilot at Muroc and the sun went down.”(p.403). When the readers see this quote they get the sense that this was what you did if you were a pilot at Muroc, you cursed and drank beer at Pancho’s, that’s how it was. Besides being accepted
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