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Assignment 2

Purpose: Developing a complex, nuanced argument requires writers to compare and contrast sources that represent different aspects of a particular issue. In this assignment, students will examine more than two exhibits that reflect changing perspectives of the war through fiction in popular film and literature. Developing an informed claim about the relationship between fact and fiction requires writers to engage an on-going historical controversy over Vietnam by including other arguments about these exhibits’ significance.


In Tim O’Brien’s interview with Larry McCaffery, he calls Apocalypse Now: “Horseshit. Simplistic and stupid…They all [movies] came across to me as cartoons, garishly drawn rhetorical statements.” Yet, he also argues: “I think all good war novels have a surreal aspect.” Analyze different ways Americans (and others) explained the Vietnam Experience through literature, music and film from 1954-1979 and develop an argument about which approach most effectively described the Vietnam War.

(6-8 pages).

– This assignment requires full citation, footnotes and bibliography.
– Paper must include at least three central exhibits
– Paper must include at least two argument sources


Make sure to introduce/engage your exhibits up front in the paper.

Choose a specific aspect of the exhibits that changed. How does each example represent a similar issue, but differently? (Combat, music, Vietnamese, Americans, film vs. literature, before vs. after war, narration, etc…)

Define the “Vietnam experience” according to O’Brien, and what makes that experience unique. How did the war itself contribute to the changing role of fiction in capturing that experience?

What was AJ Liebling’s major concern about fiction? To what extent did Americans share that concern during and after the war? How did expectations change over time and how did musicians, writers and directors meet those needs or fall short?

What are the benefits and limitations of fiction in depicting the Vietnam War?

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