Story Analyses

8 09 2008

 

Strange text following some pattern of analyzing stories that is totally unknown to me. It is full of repetitions and somehow difficult to understand, however sometimes I wish I had that kind of “intellectual toolkit” to work with… What is unusual, the author concentrates on the relation between Chris and Barnes, leaving Elias almost completely out of the equation, giving him merely the function of a katalyst.

 

Storytelling Output Report for “Platoon”
by J.D. Cochran
read the whole text

 

In an apparent dilemma story, the main character believes the problem to be in the environment when it is really within him or herself. Chris believes that going off to fight in the Vietnam War will lead him to what he’s searching for–to find a cause to engage in and support that he can be proud of, however, fighting in the war isn’t going to solve Chris’ problem. He has to realize he needs to find pride within himself before he finds it in war, or anywhere else. (…)

 

Women will empathize with “Platoon” because the main character is faced with increasingly limited options to find a sense of pride within himself, let alone survive the Vietnam War. (…)

This is a really strange statement. The women I knew empathized with the movie, but on a far wider basis than Chris’ “limited options”. 

 

An illustration of how delusion acts as the catalyst in the objective story is when Bunny paints a fantasy about an old woman and her crippled son being the leaders of the village and agents for the Viet Cong army. After doing so, he commences to beat and kill the innocent civilians. (…)

An interesting observation: I never paid much attention to what Bunny said, but indeed what he’s doing is fabricating a fake backstory to support his actions. I understood his statement as irony, but he probably really believes in his own words. Of course the story HAS some validity as is surely happened that innocent looking people in villages were VC. 

 

Once I’ve read someone’s negative critic mentioning that Chris is a passive character, being dragged through the story instead of actively shaping it. Here is a contrary view:

Main Character Approach as it relates to Do-er: There are a number of examples illustrating how Chris prefers to deal with situations externally, and looks for physical solutions to his problems. For instance: Chris drops out of college and enlists in the military to do something positive for his country; He shoots his rifle at the feet of a young, retarded man he finds hiding. This is done as a means of releasing the tension and frustration that has built up from horrific ordeals he and his platoon have recently experienced; While his platoon pillages a small village, Chris rescues a young village girl from being raped by some of the men in his platoon; When Sgt. Elias is missing in the jungle, Chris sets out to find him until he’s stopped by Sgt. Barnes; Chris attacks Sgt. Barnes when Barnes confronts him and others about killing Sgt. Elias; In the film’s climatic battle, instead of relying on the safety of his foxhole, Chris leaves to engage the enemy in hand to hand combat; Ultimately, he ends up murdering Sgt. Barnes in an act of revenge for Elias and for himself. (…)

 

This is also quite right, there was no proof of Barnes killing Elias. Chris knows that when he responses to Doc in the discussion after Elias’ death. He knows he couldn’t say “proof is in the eyes” in any serious courtroom in the world; Even if Barnes somehow admitted it in his “I am reality” speech, he still haven’t said anything which would be a valid guilty plea. So Chris decides to take the justice in his own hands, but his action is — as mentioned before — based on assumption:

Chris presumes Barnes killed Elias as if it were a fact. But in actuality, he doesn’t know for sure that Sgt. Barnes killed Elias, it’s just a feeling that Chris has about him.  (…)

Even though he didn’t see Barnes actually shoot Elias, or has any physical proof of the crime, Chris still knows Barnes murdered Elias. Chris’ beliefs are derived from the tense, volatile relationship between Elias and Barnes, and the horrible scene where Elias runs from the jungle only to get killed by the enemy soldiers pursuing him. This sight directly contradicts Sgt. Barnes questionable account of how he earlier found Elias dead in the jungle  (…)

For Barnes, conflict will decrease between the two as soon as Chris can prove himself to be more like a soldier willing to set his morals aside while fighting in Vietnam. Chris accomplishes this when he blows Barnes away. He does not, however, prove Barnes’ crimes in a way that would allow justice to triumph, which lends to his failure to resolve his personal angst. (…)

 

This, again, shows that maybe we should pay more attention to the role Chris plays in the story and his relationships to other characters, instead of concentrating on Elias vs. Barnes conflict:

Chris Taylor has joined the platoon to fight for his country, and like Sgt. Barnes, he wants to “be all that he can be.” He falls short as a soldier in Barnes’ eyes, and further, by Chris aligning himself with the compassionate Sgt. Elias, Chris and Barnes come into conflict. The conflict between the two escalates, to the point of each operating on raw nerves. Barnes is directly responsible for Elias’ death, and Chris, who has become more like his nemesis than his mentor, kills Barnes in a murderous reflex action of revenge. (…)

Both the main character [Chris] and the obstacle character [Barnes] see each other as the cause of the problems they are experiencing in their relationship. Barnes’ blatant disregard for ethics of war and his dysfunctional code of morals are like a nagging toothache on Chris’ psyche: CHRIS: Not just me… it’s the way the whole thing works. People like Elias get wasted and people like Barnes just go on making up rules any way they want and what do we do, we just sit around in the middle and suck on it! We just don’t add up to a rat’s ass. (…)

Barnes views Chris the same way he views Elias, an agent out to challenge his way of war, a crusader causing dissension among the men, undermining Barnes’ efforts, and placing the platoon in jeopardy.  (…)

Worth accelerates the conflict between Chris Taylor and Sgt. Barnes. There are many times when Barnes views Taylor as a hindrance and liability to the platoon, and he ultimately tries to kill him. For example: when Chris throws up and can’t physically handle himself the first time he sees a rotting corpse  (…); When Chris allegedly falls asleep on his watch,  (…); When Barnes realizes Chris knows he lied about Elias being dead; When Barnes overhears Chris trying to convince the others that Barnes killed Elias, and in one of the final battle scenes where the tension between Barnes and Chris comes to a head and Barnes tries to kill Chris during the commotion of hand to hand combat with the Viet Cong. Conversely, there are several times when the actions and beliefs Barnes embraces provokes Chris to evaluate Barnes’ worth to the platoon and acts as a catalyst in the tension between the two. For instance, Chris is appalled when Barnes shoots a village woman in the head and then threatens to shoot a young village girl (…); Chris tries to convince some of the other men that Barnes killed Elias, and that they need to kill Barnes who is becoming an evil, immoral, out-of-control liability to the platoon. By the end of the film, Chris’ moral integrity has deteriorated to the point where he is able to kill Sgt. Barnes, who he sees as a worthless human being. (…)

There are different opinions about Barnes trying consciously to kill Chris in the final battle. From the authors POV, it seems to be a logical consequence of the conflict between them. I still wisch stone would make a clearer point here, at least in the commentary… on the other hand it gives us something to ponder about. 🙂 

 

Some fragments that seem to negate the popular opinion about Barnes as a “Frankenstein Monster” or “cardboard Satan”, the author deal with the possible reasons for Barnes’ behaviour:

Barnes leads his troops by taking on and acting the tough, hard, insensitive persona he feels is necessary to get his men to respond to him, and to the activities of war in a way that will allow them to actually win.  (…)

Sgt. Barnes is the antithesis of Hamlet. He relies on his knowledge of war to react and perform quickly. He’s not one to sit around and consider, contemplate, or ponder situations. (…)

Cause drives Sgt. Barnes. Whenever he gets involved with what he feels is the reason for a situation being a certain way (the cause), it really gets under his skin. This is why he is so bothered by Elias. Elias has his own take on particular causes the platoon faces. Since these two view the war differently, their view of certain causes is a source of tension for them.  (…)

Effect will end the source of Sgt. Barnes’ drive and motivation. By reprimanding the platoon on the all night ambush, Barnes feels he will be able to get his men to perform better on their missions; By denouncing and challenging Lt. Wolfe’s authority, Barnes will secure more control over the platoon; The effect of killing Elias will prevent Barnes from having to deal with any “crusaders” in his platoon. (…)

When two more platoon members are killed by a booby trap in an abandoned enemy bunker, Chris notices Sgt. Barnes sitting down, lost in a thought. Barnes is obviously affected by the deaths of more of his men, enough so to make him momentarily lose his tough, military sergeant facade and expose a slight vulnerability. (…)

 

Hmmmm, not sure about that:

“Death… What do y’all know ’bout death?” is what Barnes asks Chris and the others of the “head” when he confronts them about Elias. What Barnes is really saying to the men is “You don’t know about death. Only I know about death.” Whenever Sgt. Barnes comes across as the old wise one, it really doesn’t play well. If there’s one thing these men know, it’s that anyone can die at any time, and death has no loyalties. Barnes seems to think he owns an exclusive insight to death. This often undermines his own credibility when he tries to impose his wisdom on others. (…)

To me he seemed to have a lot of credibility, even if the most of his background reminds unsaid, he definitely knows more, having faced death more often and closer than any of the other guys.

 

This is one of the few points about Elias vs. Barnes conflict:

Sgt. Barnes and Sgt. Elias get into an altercation over Sgt. Barnes’ controversial behavior and questionable leadership in the village. As a result, the platoon becomes cloaked in civil war. Half the platoon sides with Sgt. Elias, and the other half with Sgt. Barnes. Morale among the platoon is bad. Suspicion and hate cause them to turn on each other. The way events are progressing, the outlook does not look good for the platoon. (…)

When the all night ambush goes awry, Sgt. Barnes focuses on Chris’ preconscious responses as being the cause of the problem. Barnes believes that Chris fell asleep during his watch, allowing the enemy to sneak up on the platoon. Even though this isn’t true, Barnes blames Chris’ inability to resist his impulse to sleep as the cause of the platoon’s two casualties (…)

IMO Barnes knew EXACTLY who fell asleep. He just don’t bother to discuss it in front of the men, maybe even to avoid the possibility of being openly blamed by Elias for sending the new guys on the night ambush.


Sgt. Barnes’ impact on Chris eventually dehumanizes him to the point where he is capable of killing his commanding officer, fully conscious that he is committing the same type of immoral act that Sgt. Barnes has engaged in. (…)

Yeah, “only Barnes can kill Barnes”.


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