War and Marriage
They say life is too short, yet it is the longest amount of time a single individual can go through. Although everyone has a different a path in life, sometimes their paths can cross in one way or another. Two completely different people from differents background might face similar obstacles in life that help both of them shape and accept who they truly are against society’s better judgement. In Tim O’brien’s The Things They Carried and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, both the main protagonists Tim O’brien and Janie Crawford go through similar yet different life experiences that shape both of them into completely different people through their journeys of war and marriage. Tim O’brien and Janie Crawford commit to life changing events that both are very hesitant about.
For Janie, marriage is something that her Nanny is forcing upon her. Her Nanny wants the best for Janie but pushes her to marry Logan Killicks who she believes to be a good match for Janie. She does not allow Janie to think for herself or to marry who she chooses. Although Janie’s Nanny only does this to protect her from the same mistakes that she herself made, it is not necessarily the right choice. Janie is pressured into marriage and starts to question whether marriage is truly about love or not. After her and Logan marry she questions just that, ” There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
Janie had had no chance to know things, so she had to ask. Did marriage end the cosmic loneliness of the unmated? Did marriage compel love like the sun the day?” (21). Janie feels trapped into into marrying a man who she is not in love with. Tim O’brien also feels the same pressure for the Vietnam War just as Janie had for marriage. He has dreams about his life after school, but when he is chosen to be drafted, he feels cornered with no escape.
He is afraid of what everyone would think if he ran away from war. He recalls, “I feared war, yes, but I also feared exile. I was afraid of walking away from my own life, my friends and my family, my whole history, everything that mattered to me. I feared losing the respect of my parents. I feared the law. I feared ridicule and censure.
” (42). Tim O’brien did not want to face the shame from society so he went to war and fought. Both Janie and O’brien committed to these life changing events for the wrong reasons. Although war and marriage are very different things, both Janie and Tim experience pressure from their society and family that force them into questionable and uncomfortable situations. Both Janie and O’brien go through difficult times because of marriage and war that teach them valuable lessons about life and about themselves. For Janie, she jumps into her second marriage almost blindly.
She wants love and she thinks she finds that with Joe Starks. In reality he is more focused on power and what society pictures him to be rather than his wife. He becomes abusive verbally and physically and for the longest time Janie puts up with it. Hurston illustrates, “Then thought about herself. Years ago, she had told herself to wait for her in the looking glass.
It had been a long time since she had remembered. Perhaps she’d better look… the young girl was gone, but a handsome woman had taken her place… she tore off the kerchief from her head and let down her prettiful hair” (87). She is forced to put her hair up and hide who she is from society. Janie did not want to live this life and by the time Joe Starks is on his death she feels free from his rule. O’brien’s experiences with war were just as explosive as Janie’s experience with marriage. He lives the horrors at war and described it, “It’s hard thing to explain to somebody who hasn’t felt it, but the presence of death and danger has a way a bringing you fully awake” (83).
O’brien feels the deep pain as he witnesses his fellow soldiers die, like Kiowa when he drowns in the muck. He sees how war can destroy people and turn them into something they are not, like Mary Anne Bell who is completely overtaken by Vietnam . O’brien is exposed to the awful parts of war that changes someone forever. O’brien and Janie both experience the terrible sides of marriage and war that teach them that although there will always be hardships in life, to not to give up when life gets tough. After Janie’s third husband Teac Cake dies and The Vietnam War ends, both Janie and O’brien learn to cope in similar and different ways. Janie’s third husband Tea Cake is a lot different then Logan Killicks and Joe Starks.
He loves her for who she is and never made her be anything else but herself. They love each other; that is true marriage. After he dies, Janie values what they had together and that makes her a stronger person. At the end of the novel Hurston proves how Janie moves on, “Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder.
So much of the life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see” (193). Finally after a life long journey, Janie learns about true marriage and how it is not just about be loved by someone, but about acceptance. Janie was accepted and loved by Tea Cake and she finally accepts and loves herself. O’brien’s experience post Vietnam War also had a lot to do with acceptance just as Janie’s. He struggles with his war traumas and struggles with his past dealing with death at such a young age when his friend Linda died from a brain tumor.
O’brien is not a very open person talking about his time at war but years after the war was over he finally opens up. He writes stories and takes ideas from his fellow soldiers to share the experiences with others whohave never experienced the brutality of war before. He recalls, “The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head” (218). O’brien seeks comfort in writing and copes with his past by sharing it with others. Both Janie and O’brien learned to accept themselves, their past, and move forward in their lives.
Life is the greatest thing that anyone is privileged to experience. Janie Crawford and Tim O’brien are two completely different people in two completely different situations. Janie goes through three life changing marriages while O’brien preservers through the ruthless Vietnam War. Janie and O’brien go through different experiences, but in the end they learn similar life lessons that allow both of them to accept themselves and their pasts, move forwards in their lives, and define who they both truly are to become stronger individuals. Life is precious thing that offers life lessons to remember; It should never be taken for granted.