¶ … Heaven Earth Changes Places (5full pages + cover + works cited) What effect war Vietnamese society
The Vietnam War produced a profound impact upon the world at large, and upon the countries of the United States and of Vietnam in particular. There are several reasons why the effects of this martial encounter have reverberated for these two nations as much as they have -- the war lasted for several decades and involved numerous participants from both sides. As such, the clashing of cultures and of values that took place in this armed conflict could not help but to change the respective people and processes in both nations. For the U.S., this affair will forever be recollected as one of the few (if not the only) prolonged act of belligerence which it could not 'win'. For Vietnam, the war started the inexorable process of modernizing this quaint, simple rustic country and of transforming its people and their ways according to Western influence. Therefore, the ultimate effect of the Vietnam War on Vietnamese society is it both modernized and effectively westernized this country.
In analyzing the degree to which Vietnamese society was both modernized and westernized, there are several facets of Vietnamese culture -- which is perhaps best exemplified by their manifestations within Le Ly, author and protagonist of When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman's Journey From War to Peace -- to consider. One of the most obvious pertains to principles of economics. Whereas the economy in Vietnam was largely agrarian prior to the inception of this martial encounter, the Vietnam War produced a significant degree of complexity in the economy by introducing both capitalism and communism. Although there are social ramifications of both of these systems, their principle difference is in their economic standpoints. The capitalist influence, which is perhaps best personified by the Republican side which was backed by the U.S., certainly alludes to a Westernized, modern influence -- especially when compared to Marxist Communism. The extremes in the economy wrought by the war are best illustrated in the character Ahn who, early on in the book, is a wealthy capitalist with all of the material trappings it can bring, and later on, has lost virtually all of his wealth due to the war and its devastating effect. These extremes in economic fate and in economic principles certainly are attributed to the Western influence, which also helped to modernize Vietnam.
There was also a discernible difference in the cultural values that the Western influence produced within Vietnam society during and after this martial encounter. Conventional Vietnamese culture was agrarian, relatively simple and slow, with a value system that prized tenets of Buddhist thought and a harmony with one's surroundings. Modernized Western culture, however, is significantly more fast-paced, transient, and dependent on technology and ephemeral factors such as money. Le Ly and her family were caught in this culture clash, especially the young woman who eventually abandons her homeland and take ups with Westernized men and their ways and produce children for them. In the process of doing so, Ly learns how to "be wise in the midst of confusion, and how to let go of that which we can no longer hold" (Hayslip). Part of the letting go that she does in this book is letting go of her culture and replacing it with westernized ways. Although she never completely abandons her Vietnamese heritage,...
Her family members, however, large do not -- which contributes to some of the "confusion" for Ly in the previous quotation. Still, the overall effect of the war on the cultural values of Vietnam is that they expanded to contain Western values, which Ly's life ultimately demonstrates most dramatically.
Although the Vietnamese War affected Ly in a number of ways, it would be difficult to deny the fact that the most eminent of these ways pertained to gender relations. In truth, this aspect of gender relations is intrinsically related to cultural values for Ly, since it was during the Vietnamese War that she almost exclusively began dating Americans (the vast majority of which were Caucasian). Still, the effects of gender relations on Ly were considerable, especially since she was savagely raped when she was still a teenager by a pair of young men she knew -- and who were fighting for the side of the war that was largely supported by the young woman the village in which she lived at the time. In this respect, then, the war ultimately worsened gender relations for those in Vietnam, particularly the women. Ly's rape was largely the result of the 'anything goes' mentality of war. Still, she had difficult romantic relations with men ever since this encounter. The father of her first child, Anh, roundly kicked her out of the home she was living in with him once he found out that she was pregnant. The majority of time she was dating any number of American men while she was still in Vietnam, she was regularly taken for granted and routinely treated very poorly. In some ways, one might argue that Le Ly's choice to marry a Western man stems from her initial rape and the savagery she endured during her romantic relationships. These experiences served as an impetus for her to "Look those deepest, darkest, most terrible fears in the face and learn the lessons they've come to teach." That lesson. Ultimately, was that Vietnamese men were too dangerous, and that only old, gentle Westerners (such as her husband) were trustworthy enough to have a relationship with. Thus, Le Ly's gender relations formed the basis for her cultural value transition from Vietnamese to Westernized mores.
Still, it is difficult to reach the conclusion that altogether the war adversely affected the author. It is probably more accurate to propound the notion that due to some seriously unfortunate circumstances in the life of the author that were unequivocally caused by the Vietnam War that she was forced to find meaning and a higher purpose with her life than she may have had otherwise. There is no value judgment associated with this statement -- it is simply true. In this respect, then, Hayslip's life changed in way that she was able to garner a more profound meaning out of life and all of its vicissitudes. The subsequent quotation well illustrates this point.
Vietnam already had too many people who were ready to die for their beliefs. What it needed was men and women -- brothers and sisters -- who refused to accept either death or death-dealing as a solution to their problems. If you keep compassion in your heart, I discovered, you never long for death yourself. From my father's death, I had finally learned how to live (Hayslip).
This passage shows some of the way that Vietnam affected others, and the way it affected the author. The quickest reaction to this war was to die -- with honor, with value, fighting for something in which one believed. The more profound reaction to this war, and the true way in which it changed the life of the author, is that it made one want to live. I was this desire to live that ultimately fueled the author's decision to move to the United States, to go back and visit her country when she could, and to propagate her lineage through the means of having children. Yet it also took the death of her father to understand her circumstances in this context, which is simply another way in which this martial affair changed the author and made her and her countrymen embrace modernity and Westernized culture.
In summary, the Vietnam War greatly affected its participants and most individuals who lived through this encounter, particularly those…
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