Question: On page 32, O'Brien describes the Vietnam War by telling what it is not. Reverse his language and generate a list that describes the Vietnam War. Why might O'Brien choose to describe things in reverse?
The war is: un-orderly, doubtful, questioning, unknown enemies, unknown terrain, unknown boundaries, mountains, jungles, tunnels unknown status or position, unknown score, invisible enemy, no rules, no winner or loser, invisible tactics and strategies.
O’Brien reverses the language to put a heavier tone on reality. By stressing the positive contradiction of the war details, O’Brien creates a feel of deep sarcasm. His sarcasm is felt on page 32 when he says, “The playing field was laid out in a strict grid, no tunnels or mountains or jungles.” Originally this sentence was to be intended to be about checkers; however, O’Brien felt so much anger and hatred while writing it that he slowly faded into specifically what pissed him off about the war, proving that the reverse language was to put a more negative feeling on reality. Later in the paragraph O’Brien comes back to the sarcastic tone by saying, “You knew where you stood. You knew the score. The pieces were out on the board, the enemy was visible, you could watch the tactics unfolding into larger strategies. There was a winner and a loser. There were rules.” (page 35) O’Brien forces one to think about how each of those ideas sounds so nice and perfect while they are completely unrealistic. To show how reversing the tone sets a heavier tone, I will retype my interpretation of that quote for reality: “Nobody knew where they stood. The death count was unknown. Everyone was in hiding; it’s difficult to determine what is going on. Each battle ends in an indecisive victory. Anyone can do anything.” The second version is not nearly as depressing as the original one because the second quote tells you what is going on while the first quote makes you realize it for yourself. O’Brien uses a creative writing technique of describing things in reverse to make you think for yourself and to overall put a darker tone on a section.