Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 576
Dispatches is a book by Michael Herr. It describes his experiences as a journalist during the Vietnam War. It was revealed that some of the book and some characters were fictionalized. Even though it was fictionalized, it represents the reality of war and how it affected all of the people that were there and involved in the war.
There are a few characters that are important to the story being told, and most of these characters are real people.
Michael Herr is the author and narrator of the book. He is shown as the protagonist. Michael was a war correspondent for Esquire during the Vietnam War. He often engages in the front line of the war. Michael is deeply respected by the soldiers, and they trust him with their stories. The soldiers don't understand why he stays when he could leave anytime he wanted to. It came to light that some of the stories were not factually correct and that some of the characters, such as Mayhew and Daytripper, were made up.
Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in the war zone. He was the son of actor Errol Flynn. Sean worked in a few movies before he became a photojournalist. Sean did not like being known as famous and didn't want people to know who his father was. Sean and the others would all engage in drugs and rock-and-roll. Sean was known for his risk-taking behavior. Sean and journalist Dana Stone disappeared while riding motorcycles to a press conference in Saigon in 1970. Their bodies were never found, and Sean was eventually declared dead by is mother in the 80s. Michael deeply mourns the loss of his friend.
Tim Page is a British photojournalist. He is portrayed as a crazy, wily character with little regard for his personal safety. Several of the journalists see him as a liability because of his risky behavior. Tim was a drug user as well, but his drug use was by far the worst. He was hit in the head by shrapnel and forced to leave the war zone. It is later revealed that Tim went on to follow The Doors and was arrested for drug possession.
Dana Stone was an American photojournalist who worked for CBS. He was known as a risk-taker and a dedicated photographer. He is talked about the least throughout the book. Dana and Sean Flynn disappeared in 1970 while riding their motorcycles in Saigon on their way to a press conference.
Mayhew is a young American soldier who is characterized as having a rambunctious attitude. He is only briefly featured in the story. He is shown to be energetic and he re-enlists for another tour of duty. It was revealed that this character was completely fictionalized.
Daytripper is an African American Marine. He chides Mayhew's foolish behavior and criticizes him when he re-enlists. He has sympathy for the Black Panthers. It is known that his character is completely fictionalized as well.
Even though some of the book is fiction, the reality of what happened there is true. As journalists on the front lines of war, they had a bird's eye view of what was really going on. Michael Herr says best in one of his quotes from the book.
You could also hear the other, some young soldier speaking in all bloody innocence, saying, "All that's just a load, man. We're here to kill gooks. Period." Which wasn't at all true of me. I was there to watch.