Born on the Fourth of July by Ron Kovic
Vietnam War is one of the largest military conflicts in the second half of the 20th century. Moreover, it has left its mark on the culture and occupies an important place in the modern history of the United States and Vietnam. Vietnam War is one of the most dramatic periods in the history of the USA. It was a great shock for the whole American nation, which touched each of the U.S citizens and determined the fate of an entire generation of 60s. This terrible war took the lives of thousands of Vietnamese and Americans (64% of whom are under 21 years) and no one needed it except people, having the power at that time, those, who believed in the doctrine and “terrible” threat in communist Vietnam (Burns 2013).
The majority of books, films, autobiographies and other sources are about the war itself. The authors usually describe the battles, military monotony, and soldiers’ life in the field (St. Rosemary Educational Institution n.d.). However, the very war was not as important as its consequences. The war made the whole country to awaken and reconsider the values, for which they were fighting. That is why works telling of the war outcomes and describing the nation’s awakening are more important and useful for future generations. An example of such work is Born on the Fourth of July by Ron Kovic. The author himself served at the U.S. army and saw the Vietnam War (The Biography Channel website 2014). Actually, this book is an autobiographic story of the American boy, who wanted to serve his country. However, the atrocities of war and the wound, turning him into a disabled person, changed his viewpoint about the necessity and usefulness of the war. That is why the book is considered to be the story of awakening.
Born on the Fourth of July is the book written for young people going to the military service to protect their country, but do not have an idea of what the Government may ask soldiers. Reading this book helps to scrutinize such moments in history and its consequences. In addition, the realities of the war, shown from the inside as memories, are the best way to familiarize with the historic event.
Ron Kovic grew up in a small town of Massapequa on Long Island, in a Catholic family, in an atmosphere of pride for their country. He had no doubt, when he, as gifted student, was offered to go to Vietnam to protect American interests. However, in Vietnam, after participating in the bloody purges of villages, shooting recklessly his companion in battle, and being seriously injured, Kovic is faced a real war, its tragedies and horrors. Once in the hospital, he discovers a devil-may-care attitude of staff, lack of equipment and drugs, filth and squalor.
Even after returning home in a wheelchair, he still believes in his former ideals outrages antiwar speeches of pacifistic students. Only after returning to civilian life, he begins to feel that his ideals and illusions are destroyed and the government threw him to Vietnam, ruining his life forever due to obscure international ambitions. Afterwards, Ron turns into a violent psychopath and an alcoholic. After many dramatic adventures, he decides to confess to the parents of killed colleague and join the veteran anti-war movement. Only then, he finds himself again. The government creates many barriers to pacifists, but veterans do not give up - the sacred struggle for peace regained them back to life, and now no one can stop them.
The most outstanding peculiarity of Born on the Fourth of July is its structure. Despite Kovic describes the chronology of his own life, the order of the book is far from a chronological one. The book starts with a very crucial moment – the shot, after which Ron became a disabled (St. Rosemary Educational Institution n.d.). Indeed, it is hard to find a better moment to describe the crack of the author’s life – mental and physical. This what distinguishes this work from other “how I went to the army and saw the war” pieces of writing. In addition, at the beginning of the book, Kovic thinks of “getting out of here somehow” (Kovic, “Born on the Fourth of July” 2005, p. 29). At this exact moment, the author understands the viciousness of the war. However, the realization and acceptance of this notion comes to Kovic with time.
As it was said earlier, this book is for those young people, born at the peaceful times and having no idea what the war is, but striving to protect their country. However, the experience of a boy for ten years radically changed his views about a system and the common American values shows that obstacles may change (Kovic, “Born on the Fourth of July: The long journey home” 2005). Kovic says that being a war patriot, ready to protect the country from any threat may mean fighting the peasants, killing women, children and colleague (Shor 2000). The laws of war are different. Here, the laws of the strongest are functioning. The one who survived wins the “competition.” This is the main argument of the book – war is anyways not good.
In addition, no one says how to live after the war. Soldiers are prepared to fight, to survive and make the orders, but they are not advised how to live with constantly gnawing conscience. America, like all great power states, lives in a constant state of war.
It always needs an external enemy to keep people in good shape and distract the attention from internal problems. One should always fight, because it is also a good way to earn money. Homeland worthless throw expose soldiers left disabled, tossing them in the form of handouts, “treatment in the hospital” and participating in parades, demonstrating their loyalty to American ideals.
Government raises patriotic generation, which in case of any military threat would fight for the country’s ideals without any questions (Shor 2000). This is how Ron Kovic proves his argument. The whole book is a comparison and cause-consequence example. The author compares the expectations with reality by telling about the reasons for joining the military ranks – the strive for perfection. The implicit faith in the government was the cause of many deaths and Kovic’s own wound in the soul and body (Tsutsumi 2003).
The truth is the main instrument of the author to strengthen his viewpoint. Obviously, there is a piece of politization in every work of this type (Burns 2013). Under “politization,” in this particular case, one should understand the political reasons to write one or another work. Here, the desire to expose the government of that time is a political part (Weber 2008). However, the passion, with which the author describes his life and warns the future generations, recedes the politization factor into the background.
The main evidence the author presents to support his arguments are his own feelings and self-talks like “all I could feel was the worthlessness of dying right here, in this place, for nothing” (Kovic, “Born on the Fourth of July” 2005, p. 29.) or “It was in Vietnam when I the first time heard that thousands in America are protesting the war” (Kovic, “Born on the Fourth of July” 2005, p. 136). In addition, the storyteller changes from the first to the third person. The confession interchanges with observation, and this gives the book a unique feature. The ability of the author to evaluate the situation extrinsically makes the evidences more strong and convincing.
However, the author often describes the events from an individual perspective, not including them into the whole picture (VVAW 1977). At the end of the book, Kovic wonder whether his military application was a mistake or not instead of asking was the war the worth it. Unfortunately, Kovic considers himself as the only one and separately from antiwar movement or military troop in Vietnam. However, this movement combined thousands of people all across the America (Hagan 2012). In addition, despite the fact that Kovic made a huge contribution into the struggle, he was not alone. This makes the evidence weaker and less convincing. In the other aspects, the argument is very complete.
They walked for awards to be important, they believed that the war would free them. They are victims, puppets in the hands of the government. They are strong in spirit, thrust on the battlefield, and are not needed at home. The whole book reflects the strength of its author, and it is the strength of the book. One cannot find any weaknesses in style and language of the book. Despite the mentioned “highlighted individuality,” Born on the Fourth of July has only advantages and strengths. The truth, self-talks, change of the narrator are the features making the evidence strong and confirming.
However, the structure of the book may appear complex for understanding. The absence of chronological order confuses the story and interchanges the events. In addition, the change of the narrator also sometimes confuses the essence of the book. It is difficult to follow the notion of autobiography simultaneously being the characteristic feature of the book and making the argument more apparent.
The book is very good, but still a lot is left unsaid. Those who have experienced the war and all the hypocrisy of patriotism will understand the essence of the work. However, those who hardly aware of all the sad results of the war will probably not understand the essence of the book (Weber 2008). Nevertheless, it is necessary to look and scrutinize such moments in history that there is a war and consequences afterwards. Born of the Fourth of July is a very useful book for the audience it is intended for. Obviously, full understanding of the war horrors comes only on the war itself (Hagan 2012). However, the book teaches the reader not to repeat past mistakes. It is terrifying, but in case people do not learn from mistakes of history, this story might happen again.
As for me, I consider the book very complicated emotionally. Kovic is not generous with emotional and detailed descriptions, appearing as terrifying to a person with a nimble imagination. This is too harrowing story about someone, who (it is not clear unfortunately or fortunately) did not die in the war. In addition, the fact that this is a real story only makes the emotions acute. It turns out that the gratitude of the country in all countries is equal. It is a payment to disabled veterans, who gave a part of life, youth and his own health. It is a catcall and contempt of the part of peers and an older generation. Indeed, the main character was not always right, he has not kept quiet, alone grieving for lost future, and trying to prove his opinion.
Born on the Fourth of July is one of the best works written about Vietnam War. It is very evident and convincing story. The very fact that it is an autobiography makes it more terrifying, but simultaneously proves that a war is bad in any case. Powerful antiwar movement in the United States was not the rebellion of singles. People were well organized; in fact, there were thousands and thousands of people protesting. In this case, the protagonist is only a collective image of the whole American nation striving for the truth.