In the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, the character recollects the horrors of the war, the terror he felt during it. There is no romance in this crude scene. Men are throwing up, shaking, shouting, falling, drowning, and dying under enemy fire. They pull each other out of the water and try to reach their destination through the dirty water full of their comrade’s corpses. Much like the characters of Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est, the soldiers are “coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge” (1921).
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As Owen (1921) says, it is a lie that dying for one’s country is sweet. The poem and the film clearly show how horrible, quick, and unheroic a death can be at war. By contrast, the US Marines TV Recruitment Spot advertises serving in the army as a personal challenge, something noble and a self-improvement opportunity. GI Joe’s introductory sequence is colorful and has a fun tone, presenting military missions as a form of entertainment. Both videos are inspirational, yet they offer precisely the lie Owen reveals.
Marlon Brando’s speech from Apocalypse Now, on the other hand, is close to the sentiments of The Things They Carried. It highlights the sharp difference between the militia and the civilians. Marlon Brando also compares himself to the people who still can love, while his character is devoid of this feeling. He also describes all the horrors of war unknown to the civilians. The man talks about the necessity to act without thinking, echoing Lord Tennyson’s (1855) words, “Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die.”
Rambo, like Marlon Brando’s character, is struggling to connect his military experience to the civilian reality. He is deeply traumatized by the horrors he experienced during the war. The worst thing for Rambo was watching his comrades die, and the only person who can understand his sufferings is a fellow member of the military. The character of Owen’s poem also saw another man die and was horrified by the disturbing nature of such death, and it is a painful and troubling memory shared by those who have been in warfare share.
Lord Tennyson, R. (1855) The Charge of the Light Brigade. In Maud and Other Poems. Ticknor and Fields.
Owen, W. (1921). Dulce et Decorum Est. In Poems. Viking Press.