Charles Portis

Charles Ports: “I Don’t talk Service No More” In the beginning of the Cold War, Korea was divided into two at the 38th parallel. Russia occupied the northern part and the United States occupied the southern part. The two of them both influenced the parts, in which they occupied, and one day the communist-backed North Korea invaded the South, leading to the outbreak of the Korean War. When the war ended, many former soldiers were coping with the consequence of postgraduates stress syndrome, because once you have been in a war like this, it can change you forever.

A clear example of this situation is the short story “l Don’t talk Service No More” (1996) by Charles Ports that revolves around the life of an American war veteran, who is stuck in the mind of a soldier and cannot seem to like the past go. In “l Don’t talk Service No More” the main character calls up an old comrade from their division in Korea, the Fox Company Raid. He is eager to talk about what happened back then, even though it has been more than forty years (page 3, line 2).

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The comrade, Neap, says “I don’t talk service no more” (page 3, line 7), but he does not hang up the phone, thus making the narrator untie his talk about the good, old days. The narrator has a mission to call everyone from his division and lastly call the division superior, Jim, to inform him about the squad. You do not get a name or any information about the main character, but it is insinuated that he lives in a mental institution, because there are nurses (page 2, line 20) and because Neap asks him if he is in a “untoward” (page 4, line 16).

In here, he has stolen a pair of keys that gives him access to the phone in the library, where he smokes Camel cigarettes and calls up the squad in the dead of night. The theme of this short story is post-war consequences, and how it affects the soldiers long after their return. It shows how people have different coping mechanisms, and this, the narrator explains on page 3, lines 36-37: “l sit here in the dark at the library desk smoking my Camels and I think they sit in the dark too, on the edges of their beds with their bare feet on the floor. It means that even though they might not “talk service” anymore, they are still deeply affected by the war and might sit up late and brood over the occurrences of the past. There is a certain contrast to the lives they had as oldie’s compared to the life they have now, forty-something years later, which is also portrayed in the short story. You switch between the narrator telling about the brutal events in Korea to Neap telling about how his wife is not doing well, and how their house is sinking in the bog that they live in.

The narrator is also the short story central character, and you hear his thoughts and sense his emotions through the writing. It is told in a way, so you feel that he is talking directly to the reader. This means that you also switch between his conversation with Neap and the central characters own treat of consciousness, as showed on page 4, lines 19-20: ” ‘Now who’s the nut? Who knows more about the Fox Company Raid, you or me? ‘ I didn’t say that to him because you try to be polite when you can. The narrative voice of the main character also gives the reader a glimpse into his past. He tells these war stories with an extraordinary vocabulary as only a former soldier would with words like “meritorious R and R” (page 4, line 9), which means rest and recreation and weaponry vocal like “potato-masher grenades” (page 3, line 24) or “cast-iron heads” (page 3, line 25). His language use therefore proves hat he is not just a nutcase making stuff up, but actually knows what he is talking about.

Not only does the authors use of narrative viewpoint give us a glimpse into the life of a Korean War veteran, but it also has an intention, when it comes to how we as readers interpret the story. In the beginning, when Neap, tells him that his wife is in bad shape, the narrator thinks to himself: “l didn’t care about that stuff. His wife wasn’t on the Fox Company Raid” (page 4, line 3). Several times he declares that he does not care about Neaps current life, but just wants to talk service. This would seem weird to some, and it just gets rose, when the main character lets us know exactly how much he knows about the old division.

For example, he gives the names, towns and states of eight more guys from their division (page 4, lines 18-19), and he also expresses his need to call every living man from the division up just to make a report to his old superior, like that superior even cares what they are doing anymore (page 5, lines 3-4). Having the main character being the narrator, makes him seem oddly obsessed with the war, and knowing that he is probably in this “lunatic asylum” it makes you wonder if that is why he is there.

It makes the readers read the story with pity, because the writing conveys just how bad it is for him, and what the war has done to him. If you put this short story into perspective, it is classic for the period in which is it written and reflects its author. Postmodernism is a literary style that began after the Second World War and wars have been a popular topic of American literature since then. Especially the Cold War, that the Korean War is a part of, has been a known topic of the postmodern era. Furthermore, the author of “l Don’t talk Service No More”, Charles Ports, served in the U. S.

Marines in the Korean War. He even lived in Korea for the duration of his service, which makes you think if this novel was his own flow of thoughts or about someone that he knew. Maybe he just wanted to give the people an insight to the life of a war veteran, or just to write something that most Of them can relate to on some level. The Korean War ended in 1953 with a truce, but the soldiers lived on and faced the aftermaths of the war. They faced the guilt, the nightmares and the feeling that they did not belong anymore. Maybe that’s what the main character of “I Don’t talk Service No More” dealt with.