Question #11

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Question #11

Post  Marina Shehata on Tue May 03, 2011 6:08 pm

Tim O'Brien stated that "On occasion the war was like a ping pong ball. You could put a fancy spin on it, you could make it dance." Through this quote, he referred to the war as a spinning ping pong. O'Brien could have been trying to say how throughout the war, it was repetitive. For example, he stated that his unit constantly went on ambushes as well as how Norman Bowker and Henry Dobbins played checkers every night. A ping bong ball goes spinning back and forth between the players repeatedly which could be symbolic for the soldiers who repeatedly went on ambushes. Another significant meaning of the chapter name could be for the events that O'Brien enlisted. Further in the book, he spoke of how some of his stories/events were not fully true because they were exaggerated (by putting a "spin" to it) to make people see his point. After he described Bowker and Dobbins playing checkers, he stated how the game had a winner and a loser and how there were rules for the games. In his view, the war was also like a checkers game because it too has a winner, a loser, and rules.

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Response to Marina

Post  Swayze Page on Wed May 04, 2011 3:04 pm

Looking at your response I concur with your conclusion that you draw from the title of the chapter "spin." However, I would like to piggyback on your quote about the ping pong ball and the stories. With the comparison between war and the spin you can put on a ping pong ball, I drew the conclusion that a war could turn tides, meaning like at one time in the war it seemed as though the U.S. were winning the battle and at other times it seemed as though the Vietnamese were winning the battle. It could also be referencing the conditions for the soldiers, meaning that at one point the soldiers might have tons of supplies and the conditions could be bearable while at the next the soldiers would be low on supplies and the conditions would be horrible. When I say conditions I mean when the conditions were horrible the weather was clear and was not wet and miserable. When the conditions were bearable the weather conditions were the exact opposite. With the stories how soldiers would place a spin on them and exaggerate the stories for effect I believe that these were done for a reason. Soldiers would place emphasis on certain aspects of the stories through emphasis in order to convey a lesson that the story teller would want the audience to learn. The didactic lessons that these stories taught would often give lessons that would lead to a better survival chance for the soldiers. Overall, the chapter was titled "spin" because of the spin that was placed on most of events, decisions, and the war overall.

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Re: Question #11

Post  CorinneBarnes on Wed May 04, 2011 5:08 pm

I agree with most of your comments; however, I am confused about your interpretation of the significance of Bowker and Dobbins playing checkers each night. In the chapter, O'Brien states that there was "something restful, something orderly and reassuring" about the game. Instead of the war being like the checkers game, the game appeared to give the soldiers an escape from the actual war. In the war, O'Brien and the other members of the Alpha Company lived in fear and confusion. They did not know when the Vietcong were going to attack or who would be killed next. Although other wars seemed to follow an unwritten set of rules, the Vietnam war did not follow any type of regulation. Unlike Vietnam, checkers was a game in which the players could see the opponent's moves, and they could form a strategy based on the other player's decisions. Bowker and Dobbins played the game every night in order to feel a sense of control that was missing during the war. The game also reminded the other soldiers about how peaceful and orderly their lives were before they got drafted.

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