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“Kid MacArthur”

First-person stories are generally always written both from the point of view of a first-person narrator and are about the narrator. Stephanie Vaughn’s “Kid MacArthur” is told from the point of view of MacArthur’s sister as she stands in the shadow of his greatness throughout her childhood. Her father only had eyes for her brother and he trains him to be a great American that their family can be proud of. There is a separation of common qualities that becomes increasingly obvious between the father and MacArthur. MacArthur learns to shoot and hunt from the age of ten, even though he didn’t like killing the birds, whereas the father wanted to provide for his family with his own kill. The father from this story is almost exactly like the father in “Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog” in that he is a retired veteran, an alcoholic, and a very intelligent man. The narrator’s father idealized war in a way that reflected well on himself as a veteran. The narrator says, “when he remembered the war for us he remembered brave, high-spirited men not yet under attack.” This is ironic because we later learn that her brother, MacArthur, is named for a General that ran away from Pearl Harbor when the Japanese were bombing, leaving his men to die. Vaughn shows that his words are empty not only for the way he stares into his scotch, but also the fact that he is an alcoholic. He is clearly running away from his experiences in the war, much like General MacArthur and the father in “Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog.”

Vaughn creates interestingly strong characters in both the narrator and MacArthur. The parents tried so hard to force MacArthur into perfection that it seemed likely that he would have cracked under the pressure, but MacArthur was honest and loyal to his country and his family. The father trained him to be the perfect soldier, so it was not surprising that he went off to fight in Vietnam. What was surprising, was that when he returned, he did not answer to his parents beck and call. He asks the narrator, “Did you ever notice how with the family your life is always a prospective event?” As an Army brat, life was always changing and unstable and that can be terrifying for any child. Honor, loyalty,  and bravery are expected to be instilled in children from the day they take their first breath of air. The narrator is not the main focus of Vaughn’s story because women were only recently being allowed into the military. It stands to reason that MacArthur would be the primary concern of the family, since he would be the one that might die on a battle field half way around the world. Vaughn does an excellent job of conveying what it was like to grow up in a military family from the eyes of a girl who is ignored by everyone in her family, except her brother.

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