Swofford’s tale is one that strikes me as very honestly told, and his prose is compelling. I am a former Marine, currently serving in the second chapter of the war Swofford fought. His description of life as a Marine is riveting, even to another Marine. As much as anything, Jarhead is a the tale of being lost. Swofford is a thinking Marine, while many of his companions in war are not. The world is a big scary place in this novel, and it’s easy to lose yourself in a dark corner where you die forgotten. Thinking about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it only makes things darker and harder.
Military life can be harsh and unforgiving, chewing up those who fight mercilessly and Swofford brings this home in Jarhead. I have served with so many who think that war is something glorious, something to be proud of, something you’ll be able to boast about after you’ve done it. Read Jarhead, and if you still think war is glorious, you are clinically insane. Jarhead should haunt you. If it doesn’t you might have sociopathic tendencies.
War may be necessary sometimes, but I’ve always thought that older men should fight it. If only the old men fought wars, I would always know they were necessary. If you want to see a little bit of the inside of a war, or if you are fascinated by dark places, real places that exist inside men’s heads once they have been to war and survived, then read Jarhead.
If you are a young man, I cannot tell you that reading Jarhead will make you want to avoid going to war, but it should at least change whatever illusions you may have about what the life of a modern warrior is like. Many young people wear the cloak of illusionary immortality around themselves. If you know one of these, have him or her read Jarhead. If anything other than a personal brush with death will change their minds, this book might be the recipe.
You won’t emerge from Jarhead the same as you were when you dived in. You have been warned. Dark places and haunted memories come to life within the pages. Like a virus, they may become a part of you through the infectious power of Anthony Swofford’s personal narrative.