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Old 05-11-2011, 01:17 AM
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Default The Things They Carried (ensemble, gen)

What the humans carried with them on Pandora, an ensemble character-study set during canon. Inspired by the Tim O'Brien novel of the same name.

The Things They Carried


Selfridge carries the weight of his unofficial exile mostly with resignation, but sometimes with ambition and sometimes with a biting, impatient kind of black humour. He didn't choose to come here, because who in their right mind would? (Most of Hell's Gate's population, according to their files, which just further confirms his theory that everyone else here is completely insane.) He's determined to do his best, even though he carries with him the knowledge that he's the wrong person for the job – too by-the-book, too used to dealing with people who think in ways he can understand, too aware of the fact that he's in the middle of freaking nowhere. He hides the knowledge of this by carrying an air of competency and drive, which some days works better than others. He carries in his mind codes and procedures and information about everyone who works at Hell's Gate because it's his job and information reassures him, and he carries statistics and percentages and the ability to calculate worth to three decimal places because he's an accountant at heart. But underneath it all, Selfridge carries the sneaking suspicion that everyone is just letting him have his illusion of control.

Grace carries a tattoo on her arm that she refuses to explain, mostly because it entertains her not to. It could be a symbol of Agni, the fire of creation (Max's suggestion), it could be a lotus flower (Louise), or even a cannabis leaf (Trudy, being only slightly tongue-in-cheek). She carries nothing else from Earth; even her Stanford shirt for her Avatar was made on Pandora, and this pleases her. In truth, Grace also carries the white liberal guilt of her upbringing and education, and a host of prejudices and neuroses she just can't leave behind. Of course, to actively realise this would be to devote energy to understanding her own thought patterns, which Grace considers a waste of valuable time. She carries her chosen mission in life much like she carries her lab-coat, with flare and just enough arrogant superiority that she's rarely questioned. She carries two Na'vi-made necklaces, one for human form and one for her Avatar self, and with the necklaces she carries the protection her former students wanted her to have. She carries her love for the land and its people as openly as her confidence, and sometimes she carries her hurt in the same way.

Max carries the following: two pens of differing colours, one paper notepad, one e-pad, his identity card, a fascination for finding answers, and the firm knowledge that without him, Augustine wouldn't have a department to be the head of. He also carries a hipflask that is always empty, mostly to remind himself that he hasn’t reached the point where he needs to fill it. Yet.

Norm carries an old leather satchel that used to belong to his father and a book on evolutionary biology written by his mother. He carries the mixed cynicism and enthusiasm of a person who has studied humanity more than lived it, but it's the enthusiasm that comes shining forth. He carries himself with confidence because he knows exactly who he is, and because he's too full of ideas and wonder about everything not to. Norm also carries himself with confidence because he's six foot two and fit, with quick reflexes and an excellent spatial awareness, and frankly he can handle himself just fine.

Jake carries the memory of his brother, and the knowledge that he'll never be like him. He carries other memories, too, of those he killed and of those he failed to save. Mostly he carries memories of the dead, because he has a hard time remembering the living he left behind. He carries an USMC t-shirt because it still fits, and at the bottom of his bag he carries his shot glass from when his company all got a set. He wears a tribal tattoo that means nothing on one arm and 'Born Loser' on the other, which seems to mean far too much. But in the jungle, Jake carries other things. He carries a knife made from resin, a bow he must fire from his left hand. He carries the intricate necklaces and protective armbands of a culture he doesn't know, given by a people who feel like home, and he doesn't like to think about why he feels odd when he wakes up in just his human clothes.

Trudy carries her faith at the hollow of her throat, on a small gold locket with a small black cross on the front and the Lord's Prayer in Spanish on the back. She wears another necklace, too, only this chain is an amalgamation of others. On this much longer necklace she carries a shell she picked up in Kuwait, a bone bead her grandmother gave her for luck, and a silver wing her father bought her when she first got her pilot's license. As a further reminder of where she's come from, Trudy carries the emblems of every unit she's ever been in under her clothes, permanently etched into her skin by the tattooist's needle. In memoriam of her current posting, she has the words 'welcome to pandora' curved on the back of her hip, right where her belt is. 'Welcome to Pandora', because that's what the Marines say when anything is crazy, or ****ed up, or (frequently) both. She carries a gun because she has to, and it'd be stupid not to. But sometimes, Trudy thinks that she carries a gun because she's been a warrior for so long she doesn't know how to put it down.

Wainfleet carries a picture of his twin daughters and the knowledge that every day he spends alive on Pandora is another day he's getting paid, which means another day's worth of income put towards making his girls' future being better than his. He carries the grinning skull and motto of his old USMC battalion with pride on his left shoulder, and he carries a working-class infantryman's well-honed contempt for his superiors (excepting la Capitán and the Colonel). He never leaves the SecOps barracks without carrying his black armband, because as everyone knows it's freaking bad luck not to, and you need all the luck you can get at this posting. He also never leaves the barracks without carrying his (formerly) regulation handgun and extra (hollow pointed) ammo, because after spending the night out in the jungle in the wreckage of a Samson with Chacon, Wainfleet carries a healthy respect for all the ways that Pandora wants to kill him.

Quaritch carries his scars with a pride that only warriors understand. He carries a faded bald eagle tattoo on his right arm above his elbow, and on his left hand he carries the snake ring of the United States Naval Academy's graduating class of 2110. He carries the authority of his command as easily as his gun, and he carries the loneliness of it in the same way. He carries the knowledge that soldiering is about fighting, about killing the other guy before he kills you, and that getting the job done means getting your hands dirty. He carries a certain dark relish for violence and mayhem, and enough professionalism to mostly keep it under control. Quaritch carries the responsibility for the lives of everyone who lives at Hell's Gate, and he carries their injuries and deaths because he doesn't know how not to.
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Old 05-16-2011, 08:16 AM
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This is a positively fantastic coincidence.

I just finished reading "The Things They Carried" for a class, and I was doing an essay in response, but my essay is a retelling of the story from a perspective and location in my everyday life.

This really helps me to see what kind of structure works for an analytical story like this, and is very entertaining and well written.

One thing about Selfridge, though; I always thought he was just a huge coward riding on the "illusion" of control, as you mentioned. Do you consider him a coward? How did you percieve that part of him?
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Old 05-16-2011, 08:27 AM
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This is a positively fantastic coincidence.

I just finished reading "The Things The Carried" for a class, and I was doing an essay in response, but my essay is a retelling of the story from a perspective and location in my everyday life.
I love and adore The Things They Carried, and recently just found a copy of my own (previously, I had it borrowed), and I really thought it could be a fun way to write some characterstudy of everyone. And oooh, still, your essay could be interesting.

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This really helps me to see what kind of structure works for an analytical story like this, and is very entertaining and well written.
I'm glad it helped! And thank you so much, I had a lot of fun writing it and managed to say a lot that I've been meaning to say for a while.

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One thing about Selfridge, though; I always thought he was just a huge coward riding on the "illusion" of control, as you mentioned. Do you consider him a coward? How did you perceive that part of him?
I don't see him as a coward, exactly. I see him as a good manager and a good accountant, and very normal, but - like I wrote - I always see him as the wrong man for this job. He's right enough on paper, but he doesn't want to be there (as I read the character), and he's too used to...well, dealing with other business types. He doesn't know - he can't really get - how the Na'vi think because he's not that imaginative; he's an urbanite and a corporate guy, and ultimately, if he were to make a wrong step (particularly if Quaritch decides to take over), he's a long way from Earth with no one to rely on. And he solves this probably by trying not to think about it too much, try and pretend he's somewhere NORMAL where he gets it, and he's not surrounded by soldiers. And he's charismatic and ambitious enough that he does want to do a good job and he can carry himself well, but underlying all of that is fear.

But not sure that makes him a coward so much as just out of his depth.
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Old 05-16-2011, 06:09 PM
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But not sure that makes him a coward so much as just out of his depth.
Agreed.

However, the part where he seems to exhibit cowardice (in my eyes, anyway; applying your analysis here probably works too) is when Jake gets pulled out of link because he attacked that slashcutter and busted up the camera.

Quaritch is starting to attempt taking control of the situation, and Selfridge seems like he wants to resist him, but doesn't have the guts.

This is apparent again when he says "Alright, let's pull the trigger"; he seems to hesitate, but doesn't dare try to resist the intimidating Quaritch, instead allowing him to take control of the situation.

Finally, despite clearly being in way over his head and quite aware of the genocidal intentions of Quaritch when he launches his doomed assault on the tree of souls, it seems like he wants to stop him, because he knows what he's doing is wrong, but he just doesn't have the guts to do it. I almost think that he might have been able to redeem himself if he waited until Quaritch left and took over the base with Max and the others after the attack failed.

What do you think?
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Old 05-17-2011, 12:53 AM
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Agreed.

However, the part where he seems to exhibit cowardice (in my eyes, anyway; applying your analysis here probably works too) is when Jake gets pulled out of link because he attacked that slashcutter and busted up the camera.

Quaritch is starting to attempt taking control of the situation, and Selfridge seems like he wants to resist him, but doesn't have the guts.

This is apparent again when he says "Alright, let's pull the trigger"; he seems to hesitate, but doesn't dare try to resist the intimidating Quaritch, instead allowing him to take control of the situation.

Finally, despite clearly being in way over his head and quite aware of the genocidal intentions of Quaritch when he launches his doomed assault on the tree of souls, it seems like he wants to stop him, because he knows what he's doing is wrong, but he just doesn't have the guts to do it. I almost think that he might have been able to redeem himself if he waited until Quaritch left and took over the base with Max and the others after the attack failed.

What do you think?
Why would he resist? Yes, he knows it's wrong - he's known it's wrong ever since he sent Jake to negotiate, probably from before that, he knows it's wrong ever since Jake came back and he and Grace said that they need more time (notice how he hesitates and says 'I'm sorry'). But he has his own orders from Earth, and he has a job to do. Look at Earth where people are forced to leave their homes and go some place - I'm guessing the exact same thing happens in their Earth, too.

He KNOWS from a moral point of view that it's wrong, and he doesn't want to do it. But orders are orders and a job is a job, and then when the Na'vi kill the Marines, I don't think he's left with much of a choice. I see the school shooting as being atypical of Marine-Na'vi relations, but the Marines are going to keep on being killed so that builds up anger and resentment when they can't fight back. And now Marines have been killed, again, and it's at the end of the three months - remember, Selfridge has no idea that Jake has done zero negotiating - and he's got no reason, beyond the moral one, to NOT let Quaritch loose, and a lot of reasons why he should (job, orders, let Quaritch off his leash this once so maybe Quaritch will come back to heel (he doesn't) and so on). And also, remember, matters of security are Quaritch's responsibility - why on Earth would Selfridge step in when Wainfleet is looking for the dead crew?

So, no, I don't see him as a coward, exactly. I see him as entirely out of his depth and trying to play by the rules, even though he doesn't really KNOW some of the rules and the other rules don't really apply here.

I think it's very easy to say 'well, he should have done this', but, you know. He's not evil. He's just human. Humans do have a tendency to let people with authority tell them what to do, and very, very few people are able to resist things. He's human, with his own orders, and those orders were running against his conscience, but he didn't see a way out so he just went with it.

To me, being a coward, would have been to actively hand over everything to Quaritch and go and hide in his room and not listen. Instead, what he does is that he sticks around, he listens and he watches and he takes his own responsibility for what he ordered, and then tries to get Quaritch back on his leash. And when that doesn't work, when Quaritch slams him into the wall, he doesn't go and hide - he sticks around, he listens, he pays witness. To me, those are not the actions of a coward. Just someone who is human.

But then I'm rather cynical about human nature. We do tend (with VERY few exceptions) to go along with things.
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Old 05-17-2011, 01:01 AM
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this was great, well written and interesting to read about the little facts about everyone i want to see trudy's ink
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Old 05-17-2011, 01:18 AM
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this was great, well written and interesting to read about the little facts about everyone i want to see trudy's ink
! Thank you so much!

And hee, I want to see her tattoos toooooooooo. On her, anyway, I know roughly what they look like in my head:

the seahorse from this just above her right ankle, with the 'second to none' down her spine; the any time anywhere from this down her left shin, with the black spade there as well; from her second USMC chopper squadron, she didn't copy the insignia exactly but took the 'Flying Tigers' of their name, and designed a tiger herself for being on her left hip: (and she designed another tiger for Maya, her Samson at Pandora); and across the back of her hip, as I said, she says 'welcome to pandora'.

Sadly, I can't draw for anything, so they just all exist in my head.
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Old 05-17-2011, 10:06 AM
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very nice, chicks with ink are
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Old 05-17-2011, 05:59 PM
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@ Ashen:

Hmm.

Now that you've put it that way, I can see what you mean.

Sort of like how when they were holding trials for captured Nazi officials after WWII, and when they were asked how they were able to gas so many prisoners and why they didn't try to resist, they said something along the lines of "I don't know, I was just following orders", and some interesting things about human psychology were drawn from it.

You know, you would make a really excellent English teacher/professor.
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Old 05-18-2011, 12:20 AM
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@ Ashen:

Hmm.

Now that you've put it that way, I can see what you mean.

Sort of like how when they were holding trials for captured Nazi officials after WWII, and when they were asked how they were able to gas so many prisoners and why they didn't try to resist, they said something along the lines of "I don't know, I was just following orders", and some interesting things about human psychology were drawn from it.

You know, you would make a really excellent English teacher/professor.
Yep, that would be kind of the thing I mean - but also the way that most of the German people went along with it. Although, I do think Selfridge knew what he was doing, but he didn't see a way out, and then it all unraveled at him.

And, really?
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Old 05-18-2011, 01:04 AM
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Brilliant. :3
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Old 05-18-2011, 02:14 AM
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Brilliant. :3
! Thank you!
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