The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel

by David Rabe

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What is a conscientious objector? Research the experience of conscientious objectors during the Vietnam war; you might examine Gerald R. Gioglio's Days of Decision: An Oral History of Conscientious Objectors in the Military during the Vietnam War (Broken Rifle Press, 1988). Why does Sgt. Brisbey ask Pavlo in the hospital, "you're not a conscientious objector, are you? So you got a rifle." How does the perspective of a conscientious objector compare to Pavlo's feelings about the war, or, based on what you might know from other sources, to those of Rabe?

Many playgoers are surprised by the fact that Pavlo is not killed at the front but in a whorehouse after an argument that is ultimately meaningless. Research American casualties in the war, was it common for soldiers to be killed away from combat? What do the circumstances of Pavlo's death contribute to Rabe's depiction of the full experience of Vietnam?

Tragedy, in its classical form, usually involves some act of self-recognition on the part of the primary character near the play's conclusion. What, if anything, does Pavlo seem to learn as a character throughout the course of the play9 Compare his awareness while living to the symbolic dialogue he has with Ardell after his death.

Research perceptions of the Vietnam war at home in the United States and how they developed as the war progressed Consider Mickey's response to Pavlo's stories about basic training. What is the significance of Mickey's taunt, "Vietnam don't even exist'"?

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