In "Cranes," two childhood friends find themselves on opposite sides of the Korean War, with most of the conflict occurring at the 38th parallel, which is referenced in the story. Friendship is certainly a theme and has been referenced here. Also worth noting is another theme: War creates...
In "Cranes," two childhood friends find themselves on opposite sides of the Korean War, with most of the conflict occurring at the 38th parallel, which is referenced in the story. Friendship is certainly a theme and has been referenced here. Also worth noting is another theme: War creates ideological conflict based on circumstances that may not represent individual beliefs.
After all, these two boys are childhood friends. They intimately know each other's families and the struggles they have overcome. They share memories, like sneaking out to smoke dried gourd leaves, hidden from the adults. They also share a time when younger Tokchae plucked chestnut needles out of Songsam's bottom. Yet here they are under governments that tell them that they have nothing in common and that any person on the opposing side of war deserves death.
One quote that illustrates this:
They made me vice-chairman of the league because I was one of the poorest and I was a hardworking farmer. If that constitutes a crime worthy of death, so be it.
Here it is clear that Tokchae is not selected as a military leader due to his passion for the governmental policies or because he has proven himself a fierce warrior. Instead, he is a victim of the government itself; they know that he is a man of few resources and simply take advantage of his situation.
Another quote that illustrates this theme is as follows:
But his father had said the same thing! Where can a farmer go, leaving all his chores behind? . . . Fortunately, his family was safe then, as now.
The fact that Songsam's family is safe seems to be a matter of luck more than anything. Their stories are so similar, and being on the winning side seems a matter of chance. Songsam's family is "fortunately" safe—but the situation could have easily been flipped as the 38th parallel changed hands so many times.
War creates deep lines of division that do not always reflect the values of individuals. As this short story shows, perspective is important in determining fault and responsibility in areas of conflict.