A Rumor of War: Philip Caputo's 1977 Memoir

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University of California, Santa Barbara
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In numerous ways, history has been presented through platforms such as films and books, and for various purposes. For example, A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo also referred to as Philip Caputo's 1977 memoir is writing providing details of Caputo's experience serving as a marine during the Vietnam War. Philip Caputo's 1977 memoir could be described in three major parts whereby part one involves the splendid little war; part two represents the officer in charge of the dead; while the third chapter is in death's grey land-epilogue. On the other hand, the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket directed by Stanley Kubrick is based on a platoon of United States Marines in training for the Vietnam War. Majorly, the story provides a focus on two privates, Pyle and Joker, who seem to struggle to get through the boot camp under the authority of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, the drill instructor.

A Rumor of War and Full Metal Jacket are a proper presentation of history; however, this paper will compare and contrast the central themes of the two, determine questions raised by the director and the author in their works, and the purposes of both the book and the film. Also, the paper will present an explanation to the achievement of the objectives by determining the flaws in either of the works and lastly define the capacity of the film and the book as mediums of historical discourse.

Comparison and Contrast of the Main Themes

In a comparison of the main themes presented in A Rumor of War and the Full Metal Jacket, there are various themes presented. Within Caputo's memoir of the Vietnam war, the theme of change is evident. For instance, Caputo allows a deeper understanding of the Vietnam war by allowing the readers to understand how changes occur within the soldiers as they encounter harsh truths in the war. Also, the theme is evident whereby it brings a new meaning to combats which assist in explaining why Caputo was having a hard time writing the novel in the first place (Caputo, 12). Correspondingly, Full Metal Jacket presents the theme of transformation. For example, this theme of transformation is evident as Hartman informs the men under training in the boot camp that his primary objective is to turn them into "Killer" and they ought to be transformed into becoming unthinking destroyers and leave their humanity behind. The nicknaming of the men by calling them cowboys only encouraging them to abandon their original lives into the favorite characters as indicated by Joker is a form of transformation.

In contrasts of the themes in A Rumor of War and Full Metal Jacket, there are themes of masculinity and facing reality. The theme of masculinity is at the core of Kubrick's film as he invokes femininity to mock the men by referring to them as "ladies." Moreover, the film also presents the theme of sexuality as Hartman quotes that men need to leave their sexual fantasies before joining the military camp (Avila, 49). On the other hand, Philip Caputo's 1977 memoir presents experiences of the war through the themes of facing reality and influence of culture on war. In the memoir, the reality is as a result of the experiences of the Vietnam war signifying on the loss of boy innocence, loss of will to fight for a "good cause," and the loss of human compassion. In as much as the themes of war and loss are evident in Philip Caputo's 1977 memoir, facing reality is the dominant theme.

Issues Raised by The Author and Director

As events are present in A Rumor of War, there are various issues raised by Caputo particularly on the focus of the Vietnam War whereby occurrences such as war heroism are evident. However, as the three parts of the book are presented, Caputo raised the issue of emotional effects of the war along with impacts on the sense of human compassion. Correspondingly, Kubrick raises the issue as he presents Full Metal Jacket. The principal purpose of the film is to portray the psychological change of the soldier after the training. The effects of transformation of the average soldiers from the humanism to destroyers who are compelled to engage in war are shown. Thus, this sense of transformation marks the primary issue raised by Kubrick (Avila, 36).

The Main Purposes

In consideration of the purpose in Full Metal Jacket, it follows a group of aspiring young men ensuring trials of training on their journey to becoming Marines, and ultimately, soldiers in the Vietnam War. In the first section of Kubrick's film, Private Pyle and Joker are seen struggling physically and mentally to acquire the training while the second section of the film is set in Da Nang, Vietnam depicting an occurrence of first-hand sense of war. Hence, one can derive that transformation is one Kubrick's purpose. Consequently, Caputo's 1977 memoir is based on the experience of the Vietnam war as well as depicted on the effects of war to the soldiers along with the issue of facing reality; thus, can be termed as the major purposes (Caputo, 56).

Flaws or Weakness

There is a collection of flaws or weaknesses evident. In as much as both A Rumor of War and Full Metal Jacket deliver occurrences surrounding the transformation and change of characters. For instance, in Caputo's memoir, he fails to include various aspects such as the society's involvement in the book which is a critical aspect. Moreover, Kubrick's film fails to define the overall practices in the boot camp through Gunnery Sergeant Hartman who is also an essential character in the movie. Generally, there is significant concern placed on transformation and change rather than the actual experiences and outcomes.

Can the Film Serve as An Effective Medium for Historical Discourse?

Depending on the presentation of a particular film, there are various ways they can be used for historical discourse. From the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket, there is proper characterization as well as a presentation of themes which in one way or the other are used to hold a perception of reality. There is a much broader sense of trust delivered through the film; hence, adding to the consideration that the film can serve an effective medium of historical discourse based on objectivity and focus.

Works Cited

Avila, Raul. "Full metal jacket: versiones en espanol y en latino." Revista de Filologia de la Universidad de La Laguna36 (2018): 35-47.

Caputo, Philip. A Rumor of War: The Classic Vietnam Memoir. Picador USA, 2017.

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