What spin is Tim O'Brien putting on the war in the chapter "Spin"?

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Throughout "Spin," O'Brien attempts to portray the lighter side of war while simultaneously examining the inconsistent, violent nature of conflict. O'Brien begins the chapter by saying,

"The war wasn't all terror and violence. Sometimes things could almost get sweet...On occasions the war was like a Ping-Pong ball. You could put...

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Throughout "Spin," O'Brien attempts to portray the lighter side of war while simultaneously examining the inconsistent, violent nature of conflict. O'Brien begins the chapter by saying,

"The war wasn't all terror and violence. Sometimes things could almost get sweet...On occasions the war was like a Ping-Pong ball. You could put fancy spin on it, you could make it dance" (O'Brien, 20).

O'Brien then shares unconnected anecdotes that illustrate the fragmentation of war. He describes how Azar gives a chocolate bar to a boy with one leg and how Mitchell Sanders peacefully picks lice off of his body under the shade of a tree. O'Brien also recounts how Henry Dobbins and Norman Bowker play checkers every night in a foxhole, which contrasts sharply with the enigmatic, unpredictable nature of the Vietnam War. The unrelated stories concerning the old Vietnamese man who helps the Alpha Company traverse a mine field, Norman Bowker's comments about his father, and Mitchell Sander's story about a soldier going AWOL illustrate the various everyday experiences throughout the war. Peaceful moments like Kiowa teaching Rat Kiley a rain dance and Henry Dobbins singing to himself as he sews, are juxtaposed against violent stories involving Azar exploding a puppy and Curt Lemon's body parts hanging in a tree. O'Brien's anecdotes give the reader a different perspective on war by putting a "spin" on the solely brutal nature of conflict. Unlike Henry Dobbins and Norman Bowker's structured, predictable game of checkers, soldiers encounter a myriad of experiences ranging from tranquil and lighthearted to brutal and traumatic.

 

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In the chapter "Spin," O'Brien is putting a few different "spins" on the Vietnam War, and war in general. The chapter begins with the assertions that war has a sweet side to it too – it's not all violence and death. O'Brien launches into a series of stories meant to demonstrate this sweeter side of war: Kiowa teaches a rain dance to Rat Kiely and Dave Jensen, Mitchell Saunders mails his body lice to the Ohio draft board, Ted Lavender even adopts a puppy! Of course, then Azar strapped it to a mine and blows it up. Even though O'Brien is putting a sweet spin on the war, the horror is still at the edges. 

Another insight about the war in this chapter is when O'Brien compares it to the checkers games that Norman Bowker and Henry Dobbins play every night. O'Brien observes that checkers is orderly and relaxing, with two armies and clear-cut rules. Real war, however, is the opposite of that. O'Brien shows readers this through his disjointed story telling, in "Spin" and in the rest of the novel, with moments of great kindness and beauty juxtaposed with moments of horror and grisly acts. 

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