“The Quail Were Talking About Vietnam” by Wilson Essay

October 14, 2020 by Essay Writer


The Quail Were Talking About Vietnam is an analysis of several short stories by Raymond Carver. The analyst, Wilson, points out that the stories mostly give the feelings, experiences, and troubles of veterans of the war who had returned to America (201). Through these veterans and the different characters they interact with, snippets of the stories of the war are gleaned. In this way, Carver communicates his feelings and experiences in relation to the war.

This paper is written as a commentary. Wilson’s analysis helps the reader to understand the war (201). It discusses the extent to which the interpretation of the stories is accurate, and which gray areas it leaves, thus helping a person who did not live at the time to understand the war.

The Veterans

One dominant theme in Wilson’s analysis of Carver’s stories is the war veterans that he extensively, and confusingly so, refers to as the vets (201). This could possibly be mixed up with veterinary doctors, who are also called vets. Nevertheless, these vets occupy a large space in the analysis, and by extension, in Carvers’s stories.

Wilson begins by pointing out that Carver himself was afraid of being drafted into the army since he was of poor physical health and also had a wife and two children (201). This gives an insight into the way people were forcefully drafted into the war and how they were afraid of this eventuality.

This fear of being drafted is clearly expressed in the short story Bright Red Apples in which a young man Ruby sits under a tree in the field, terrified of being drafted. He listens to quail and concludes that the “The Quail Were Talking About Vietnam” (Wilson 206).

Among the veterans identified in the analysis is the postman Henry Robinson in Where I Am Calling From, a young man named Martson in The Greatest Generation, and the lady’s son in What’s in Alaska, among others (Wilson 203). The veterans display characteristics such as a disturbed conscience, psychological torture, irresponsibility, lavish lifestyles, and alcoholism to hide their suffering.

As Wilson points out, the only two ways of dealing with the disturbing war memories were alcoholism or being a workaholic (205). In Call If You Need Me Pete admits that he drank a quart a day since he left the service (Wilson 205). It is an option that many veterans opted for. In What Did You Do In San Francisco, the protagonist is a workaholic who immerses himself in work to forget the sorrows of the war (Wilson 205).

Psychological Problems

There are extensive psychological problems that affect both the veterans and those who are related to or associated with them. These include the mother of the veteran in Why Honey, who laments to her son for disappearing and getting married somewhere else without telling her. She wonders why he does this (Wilson, 203). This motif of the disturbed veteran is further developed in the story of the spade (African-American) in Vitamins (Wilson 204). He tries to get married and settle down, but he is soon disturbed by another veteran known as Nelson. Nelson even performs the grisly act of showing the ear cut off from a dead opponent in the Korean War. He ends up shouting that whatever a war veteran does, it will do no good to anyone. This shows how desperately disillusioned some of the veterans have become.

In Cathedral, the wife of an air force officer does not like her husband being in the military. She posts a protest by attempting to commit suicide but later opts to leave him. She is clearly disturbed by the experiences and risks the soldiers go through every day. She has observed how the other soldiers suffer in the military base where they live (Wilson 204).

In Where is Everyone a parent is fed up with his child and wants to send him to the army (Wilson 205). He feels that the son will end up as a problem to other people. This creates the impression that the army was regarded as some form of punishment for wayward children. It is not clear if the parent hopes that the army will discipline the child. What emerges clearly is that the army will at least keep him away from the neighborhood (Wilson 205).

Gray Areas in the Analysis

The main weakness in the analysis is that it does not treat any of the stories covered with any particular detail. Perhaps the reader would have gained more if Wilson had chosen to discuss fewer stories in a more detailed way (205). This would make the discussion of the stories more meaningful.

Wilson also gives only a cursory comment on the actual war coverage towards the end of his critique (206). The short stories chosen therefore do not relate to the direct occurrences in an actual war situation but only give related narratives on the sidelines. This is understandable since the author himself was never drafted (Wilson 201). Nevertheless, Wilson could give more insights using the stories as told by the author (203). This is not done.

Works Cited

Wilson, David A. “The Quail Were Talking About Vietnam: Raymond Carver’s Short Stories and War.” Vietnam War Generation Journal, vol. 2, no.1, 2003, pp. 201-207. Print.

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