Archive for March, 2010

March 12, 2010

Confined to Reality

             The Vietnam War created a great deal of hostility and divergence amidst the American spirit. It was very hard for many citizens to comprehend exactly what they were trying to fight for; they would often hear of the unnecessary killing that took place on both margins of the war. When veterans returned home from the hellish battle, most roughly wounded, they did not receive the gracious receptions they had expected. In Oliver Stone’s epic story, Born on the Fourth of July, Ron Kovic (played by Tom Cruise) is one of the aforementioned veterans that feel as if they deserve more honor and sympathy from their homeland. Just like each fellow marine, he volunteered to give himself to his country, for the elusively positive outcome of fighting the Vietnamese. Ron refuses to be confined to the reality surrounding him. Aside from a disrespected war, Ron is facing mental roadblocks that keep him from accepting the  shifting world around him. His paralysis keeps him physically separated from viewing the present effect of the war. As the film progresses, Stone shows prominent scenes that unmistakably demonstrate Ron’s confinement. 

            When the audience finally sees Ron after he has returned to the states, he is barely recognizable; paralyzed, unshaven, wearing his face with a permanent look of anguish. When his doctor finally consults him after what seems months of waiting, he is informed that he might have to lose one of his legs, mostly in part because the poorly established recovery facility doesn’t have enough of the appropriate equipment to properly rehabilitate its tenants. Ron doesn’t respond to the news very calmly. In fact, he  immediately rejects the doctors counsel, “No Doc, I have to keep my leg,” even though the doctor admitted there is a one-hundred percent chance that Ron will never be able to walk again. Its also apparent that this scene shows how indifferent the facility staff is to Ron’s situation, casually stating that he’ll probably need to lose one of his limbs. When Ron wins the fight to keep his leg, he still feels determined that he will walk again, maybe even wrestle like he’d enjoyed before. He has a false sense of hope that his life can return to the way it was before Vietnam.

            Another ill- defining moment for Ron regards the reunion of him and one of his previous girlfriends. Out from the recovery center, and functioning successfully in his wheelchair, Ron was feeling very hopeful for the future. Visiting his old girlfriend, it’s very possible that he was wishing they could pick up where they’d left off. To his dismay, Ron discovers that not only is she engaged to another man, she has an entirely new life that completely crashes with Ron’s world. She is a main participant in fighting against the war and the center of many demonstrations. She has moved on. After hitting Ron with the news, she further tries to persuade Ron to publically speak at one of the gatherings, emphasizing that “they would listen to him,” especially since he feels so misunderstood and disrespected as a wounded veteran. At the end of this scene, she and Ron are progressing alongside the demonstration area when Ron abruptly stops. He has hit the end of the sidewalk, and been halted by the elevated pavement to which she has already stepped onto. This symbolizes Ron’s confinement to ‘his side’, while she (and the rest of the United States) has moved on, desiring peace and rejecting the war.

            Returning home was a very troubling experience for Vietnam veterans. It was such a conflicting war between the people and the government, the nation never fully understanding the purpose of the war; leaving many of the veterans like Ron, abandoned and disdained. 

Works Cited

1. Kovic, Ron, Oliver Stone, A. Kitman Ho, Tom Cruise and Kyra Sedgwick. Born On the Fourth of July . Universal City, CA: Universal Home Video, 1998.