Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Fall 2013

Department 1

First Year Seminar


Twenty-seven years: the time it took after Paul O’Connell’s return from Vietnam for him to fully reflect on his war experience. O’Connell, a Marine who at the age of eighteen served in the jungles of Vietnam from October 18th, 1968 to October 1st, 1969, was a purple-heart receiving grunt who faced some of the most horrid experiences of guerrilla warfare. His memoir, Between the Lines, is a collection of his letters written home from Vietnam, and reflections about his experiences and the “between the lines” of the correspondences. Throughout his memoir, the themes of heroism, cowardice, suspicion, pride, and integrity are portrayed while his transition home exemplifies emotional and physical change, a loss of innocence, identity, and betrayal by the homecoming society. The timely letters and later reflections have similarities and differences in regards to these motifs, which serve to demonstrate how O’Connell changed after he encountered the homecoming society, and how O’Connell’s soldier’s tale is representative of all veterans. [excerpt]


This paper was written as the final project for FYS 121-3, Soldiers' Tales - Reading and Writing War, in Fall 2013. The course was taught by Dr. Ian Isherwood.

O’Connell’s full narrative Between the Lines can be found at