Lindsey Jones 1/13/15
A Changing World
The world is a forever changing place, physically and metaphorically for each human being. Events that dramatically affect that the way a person lives their life can trigger many different reactions in the human psyche. People can be unsure about how to react to change during this time. One reaction is to try to gain control. When someone does not want to accept change, they grasp onto as much control of their lives as possible, even when everything seems to be out of control. People cope with change in theirs lives by controlling aspects of it.
The novel, the Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers contains the round trip journey of a young man named Bartle to and from the war in Iraq. Bartle, and several of his comrades deal with the power of change that the war creates. Bartle, unsure about his place in the war, and reason he enlisted, tries to gain control of himself by confiding in a younger comrade, Murph, one of the youngest and most naive in the group, suffers the ultimate fate when he isn’t able to gain control of his condition. Sterling, the most openly aggressive and confident in the war, uses this as his method to stay in control of the forever weighing war.
In the beginning of the book, Bartle opens with a tired and cryptic position about the war. He is in the middle of his service of the war, and he mentions how it was one of the several days that the war tried to kill him. It was just another day in his mind. Murph and Bartle are the middle of shootout against the enemy and just when he was about to panic, he remembers Murph.
”Murph’s breath was a steady comfort to my right. I had grown accustomed to it” Page 6.
Bartle uses Murph as a comfort during his time in war. His mindset the entire time, being depressed about the war and only trying to survive is his way of reacting to the condition he has been put in. Bartle is in a completely new world which he has no control over. But with Murph’s presence, he feels soothed. Murph is Bartle’s symbol of control. He initially starts out not knowing who Murph is, but uses Murph as his entire motivation to continue in the war. Behind almost every decision and thought he has, is Murph’s well being is in mind.
Aside from Bartle using Murph as a pacification for the change in his life, Sterling uses his own stamina. Sterling comes across as aggressive and unlikeable when he is first introduced. The condition that the war has caused for he and his comrades seem to be completely natural for him. This is why when Murph disappears and stops talking to the group, Sterling seems to be above addressing it. Bartle, worried and wanting to comfort Murph, is told to stop by Sterling.
“If you get back to the States in your head before your ass if there too, then you are fucking dead man. I’m you. You don’t where Murph keeps going, but I do.”-Sterling, page 156
In this quote, he bad mouths Murph for losing his own control of himself. Based on this, Sterling clearly understands the effects of what not adjusting to the changing world means. People will lose themselves. This is Sterling’s sense of control in the changing world. He puts off feeling the emotions and natural reactions of shooting a gun or seeing a decapitated body and takes it in stride instead. He sees Murph as an example of what could happen if the control is lost.
The effects of the changing world take a toll on Bartle’s life. Murph breaks down and ends up dying a gruesome death after he completely loses himself in the war; which in turn affects Bartle. Sterling and Bartle both do not want Murph’s body to return to the U.S. in such a condition and get rid of the body by dumping it in a river, which later lands Bartle in jail for the not returning the body. Bartle’s mind is in another place during these events. He doesn’t seem to care that he is in jail or what the world is like outside. When Murph’s mother comes to confront him, he feels unworthy of seeing her.
“I eventually accepted the fact that everything eventually falls away from everything else” page 217.
Bartle begins to question everything. Murph, his only symbol of control is gone, and now he is in a new environment where the only thing he can control is his mind. Bartle succumbs to the idea that everything is the way it is because of has to be. Regardless of the obstacles that interfere with destiny, nothing is permanent, not even the control he had over the change in his life.
Kevin Powers, the author, wrote Yellow Birds during his service in the war. His position on his participation and reasoning for being in the war is similar to Bartles, unsure. Despite the book being a work of fiction, Powers definitely expressed his stance on the changing world and himself.
“I didn't know that I was allowed to be a writer. I thought of it as something other people were able to do. I knew that I liked writing, but that felt meaningless. We didn't have a ton of money, and I certainly wasn't going to get a scholarship of any kind. My high school sweetheart's father was an army recruiter. We're still in touch.
My dad had served in the army, and both my grandfathers had served in the Second World War. I was fairly idealistic at the time.”
It was never Kevin Powers’ plan to enlist in the army; he was expected to go. This expectation extended from several generations of his family. His father, a military veteran, and both of his grandfathers were veterans of World War II, the beaming expectation for him to enlist made him feel that he didn’t have a choice in the matter. This signified the first part of change and loss of control within his originally comfortable world. While only being in Iraq for a few months, Powers found serenity in writing. He would lock himself in his bunk and write about his experiences in the war as well as his particular mind frame. It is clear that Powers was not used to the change in his life, as he was already unwilling and unsure about himself being in the war from the beginning. Writing was his control mechanism, and he was about to write several different characters that either learned how they could keep control on lose it.
The forever changing world only gives people to either accept or fall apart. When people realize their world finally changing, good or bad, finding control is the only method of staying complete and together. The characters Bartle, Murph and Sterling are all embodiments of the changing world and what happens when you lose control. Kevin Powers used his own talent to escape the world of war and the possible changes it would bring him. Taking control of something or someone is the only way to keep from falling apart.
Works Cited for Analytical Essay:
Powers, Kevin. The Yellow Birds: A Novel. New York: Little, Brown, 2012. Print
Whitman, Alice. "Printing - Kevin Powers, In and Out of Conflict - Interview Magazine." Printing - Kevin Powers, In and Out of Conflict - Interview Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2015. <http://www.interviewmagazine.com/culture/kevin-powers-letter-composed-during-a-lull-in-the-fighting/print/>.
Life has always been pretty consistent. I’ve always expected for my days to be an ever repeating cycle until some brash or sudden miracle would occur that would make a dramatic change for me. But this isn’t to go without saying that nothing earth shattering or different has happened in my life that hasn’t made me have to change who I am or how I think or do things.
A key moment in my life where I experienced change was when my mom gave away her car and she and I had to reduce to riding in a tiny truck to school and work every morning.
This change might seem miniscule or unparalleled to those changes faced by Kevin Powers (author of the Yellow Birds) and Bart (main character from the Yellow Birds), but to me the effect of the change is no different.
When I first realized I had to be in such a small and confined space every morning, I would complain and find any reason to make the ride more difficult than it had to be.
“Don’t worry, it’ll just be for the winter.” Mom would say.
But time went on. I realized this change was going to last for some time and I needed to gain a sense of control in a suffocating environment. This triggered me to crack the window a tiny bit every morning ride. When the window was cracked, I felt like a bit of the vast world was being invited into the small space within the car. It calmed my nerves and helped me forget about the uncomfortable predicament. No one seemed to notice this, except for once:
It was below zero outside and the cold hugged my lungs with big grandma hugs, making it hurt to breathe. Walking 20 feet to the car was hassle that made it feel like sudden deathe was in the midst. I went through the usual routine making sure the car window was cracked and ready for the ride. My mother turned the key ignition and the dark dashboard came to life. She waited for a few seconds and then turned the heat on. But she noticed something different.
The windows were becoming frosted. She turned to me and say “Put the window up, it’s making the windows foggy.”
I quickly began rolling the handing. I knew she would say that. Darn frost. I watched as the window inched it’s way to the end of the frame and then stopped. I didn’t let it reach all the way. I pressed my face against the window and looked closely into the tiny corner where the window had about a few centimeters to go; I kept it like that. If I had twined that handle bar anymore and I would have been on the road to insanity in the teeny tiny clown car. Mother had her windows unfrosted and I still had the window crack to keep me comfortable. We were both happy.
This control gave me the leverage to ignore and eventually accept the change in my life. Similar to both the situations Kevin Powers and Bart were in. Powers’ love for writing allowed him to create a world bigger than the war zone he lived in and Bart’s love for his best friend and need for him to survive gave him a reason for moving on in the war.