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Hero, Loser, Victim?

Hero, Loser, or Victim? Le Ly is a Vietnamese girl experiencing life in Vietnam through many wars. Although everyone in war is a victim of war by occurrences that cause horrible situations and experiences for those involved, deciding to be a loser or a hero as a result is a self-made decision. It is this writer’s opinion that Le Ly decided she would not be defeated by the terrible things that happened to her because of the wars raging around her. Instead, Le Ly decided to be a hero.

The general understanding of a hero is a person who overcomes odds to make things come out right. A hero is someone who pushes past pain, fear, and other obstacles to do what is right in their own eyes, to set things straight in the world, to undo wrongs that they observe. However, a true hero realizes her own limitations, too. Many times throughout her childhood, Le Ly endured physical torture. Yet, at that time she believed in the Viet Cong and went through the torture without revealing any secrets of the Cong or admitting she “worked” for them.

When she was being interrogated at a Republican interrogation camp, she made up innocent stories to protect not only herself, but also her family and the other children enlisted by the Viet Cong army to play watchman for them and bring them supplies underground. “The soldier’s blow stopped my story and almost knocked me out…. The interrogator asked again, in a rougher voice, what I had been doing away from my village. Sobbing, I answered again that I had heard a parade and had followed it to see a play. I didn’t mean any harm to anyone. ” (Hayslip, 50).

No matter how hard she was beaten, Le Ly was worried that her family would be harmed if she revealed that they assisted the Viet Cong, and insisted on ignoring the pain in order to stick to her stories of innocence. At this time in her life she believed it was her duty to help the Viet Cong, since they were trying to fight for her people and her country. This was evident to Le Ly and the village children because although the Republicans took their food and demanded shelter and rations, “…the Viet Cong never asked for anything special and refused to take food if it meant we would have nothing ourselves. ” (Hayslip,47).

Le Ly was a hero to the village and to the Cong at the time because she endured pain in order to protect her loyalties. Later, as a teenager, she would be taken advantage of many times, and her sense of duty would change after she saw the Viet Cong grow violent toward her people. After witnessing mock trials of believed traitors to the Cong, Le Ly actually was brought to a mock trial herself. Condemned to death for a crime of treason she did not commit and then raped by her would-be executioners, Le Ly could no longer feel dutiful to an army that no longer seemed in support of her family, her land, and her way of life.

At first, she thought of vengeance, but her father would teach her otherwise. When her father asked Le Ly if she knew what her job was in this world, she answered, “My job is to avenge my family. To protect my farm by killing the enemy! “(Hayslip,32). But her father set her straight by saying, “Your job is to stay alive–to keep an eye on things and keep the village safe…Most of all it is to live in peace and tend to the shrine of our ancestors.

Do these things well, Bay Ly, and you will be worth more than any soldier who ever took up a sword. “(Hayslip,33). So, Le Ly believed defending her land and her ancestors and her way of life in Vietnam was her duty now. Of course, to that she would be a hero, too. When the village became under attack by Republicans, and the men were putting out fires and the women were tending the wounded, Le Ly “…watched over the little children whose parents could no longer care for them….

dressed burns on tiny hands and put bandages on cut legs and bloody heads. ” (Hayslip, 78). Le Ly always remained to help in times of trouble and never turned her back on her people or her family. Even after she was exiled from her distrusting village that she had only tried to serve and protect her whole life, she took the heartbreak and sadness and turned it into hope to start a safer life and to help her mother with whom she had been exiled. She was determined to improve her mother’s life as well as her own in any way that she could.

When she and her mother stayed with her sister, Lan, even though she was an expectant mother, Le Ly “.. vowed to be a good sister and good housekeeper. ” (Hayslip, 173). It seemed that whatever happened to Le Ly she always put up her chin and vowed to do better to make others and herself happier. Then later in life after her son was born, once again words from her father, this time on his deathbed, reminded her of her duty in life which as a mother had changed once again. “Go back to your little son. Raise him the best way you can.

That is the battle you were born to fight. That is the victory you must win. “(Hayslip,201) . It is this duty to her son that gave Le Ly the courage to marry an American and move her life across the seas. This was difficult because she received nothing but animosity from family and friends when she revealed her decision. After being a loyal hero to her family her whole life, she finally decided that her son’s welfare was her first priority. Once again, standing up for what she believed was right, Le Ly went to America.

Finally, Le Ly plays the hero one more time when she decides to visit her country to check the welfare of her family she had left behind so many years ago. It is frightening because she was entering a country she no longer knew anything about, where she had left “with a Viet Cong death warrant on .. {her} head. “(Hayslip,24). Le Ly also had no idea how her family would receive her visit or how the reunion would go. Still, she braved it all to follow her heart and her duty that she believed “A Vietnamese daughter’s duty is to care for her parents; to be close when she is needed.

” (Hayslip,24). This sense of loyalty to her elderly mother, whom she had not seen in sixteen years, drove her back to a country where she was not sure how safe she would be. Yet, true hero that Le Ly is, she did not stop there. When she saw how her native land was struggling and how misunderstood the people were, she set out to bring their message to America when she returned. She strove to write this book to tell her story and the story of her native land: a story that would reveal the truth about Vietnam and all the wars waged there that caused so much hardship.

But this book is meant to bring an understanding that will hopefully lead America and Vietnam to help each other to overcome the pain of the war and to build eahcothers lives back into lives of hope. Le Ly is a hero because she followed her sense of duty wherever it lie and overcame tremendous hardship, be it physical or emotional, to bring about the best outcome that she could.

Bibliography

Hayslip,Le Ly and Jay Wurts. When Heaven and Earth Changed Places. New York, NY, USA: Doubleday, 1989.

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