…It wasn’t just the war that made him what he w

“as. That’s too easy. Itwas everything – his whole nature…” – Eleanor K. Wade
John Wade left America a human being, yet came back a human killer. His
months in Vietnam were filled with bloodshed and human atrocity, and from
this, no man could feasibly return the same person. Yet beneath what John
endured throughout the war, he suffered many unkindness’ and tragedies that
shaped him into adulthood. It was not only the war that made John Wade, but
it was John Wade’s existence; his whole life that made him who he was.

John Wade craved love, admiration and affection. All his life, all he
wanted was to be loved, and his father’s constant taunting hurt him
immensely. In going to the war, John fulfilled his dream to become a figure
who was both admired and respected. He was not a strong, macho man, who
thrived upon violence and bloodshed, yet he was young and ambitious. Wade
saw the war as a way of gaining ‘hero’ status in order to reach his
lifelong ambitions of reaching the U.S Senate. When the revelations about
his acts in the war were made, John Wade lost everything that he had fought
so hard to build for himself. In this superficial way, one may argue that
it was the war that ultimately led to who John Wade became at the end of
the novel, yet many other factors involving his life before the war must be

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It was John Wade’s childhood and difficult upbringing that played a major
role in shaping the man he turned out to be. John was full of admiration
for his father, yet he found it difficult to understand the hurtful and
remorseless remarks his father would make about his weight and his report
cards. His father’s alcoholism also troubled John badly, and he would spend
hours in front of the mirror in the basement, living out the fantasies that
he so dearly hoped would one day become reality. “…The mirror made the
vodka bottles vanish from their hiding place in the garage…” (p.66) John
would sometimes take the mirror to bed with him, or take it to school,
because the mirror was his way of making everything seem all right; he was
able to withdraw from reality and feel comforted within his own ‘make-
believe’ world. “…The mirror made things better…” (p.66)
Although he did not carry his mirror around with him into his adult life,
John still carried with him a fantasy life, and when things became
difficult would sometimes slip back into this dream. The mirror gave John
the ability to totally tune out from what was going on around him, and
enter his delusional state. This is evidenced when John returns from war,
and alters the records. In some ways, this act almost convinces John that
his concoction is the truth, and he is bringing real life into the fantasy
that he so badly aspires toward. Towards the end of the novel, when Kathy
disappears, John appears to have entered into his fantasy world, and he is
extremely confused about what happened the night that Kath went missing.

Perhaps John has stepped inside the mirror, and has lost the ability to
separate events that happened in real life, and those he dreamed of.

John Wade loved magic. He had been practicing his tricks since he was a
young boy, and magic had a major role in his development. Magic, as well as
the mirror, allowed John to create an illusion, and hide himself from the
reality of life. John continued on with his hobby, and when he served in
Vietnam, he took on the pseudonym; the role of the Sorcerer. By creating a
false sense of hope for the men in Charlie Company, he was given the love
and attention that he craved for so dearly. This whole routine of the
Sorcerer was Wade’s way of removing himself from the real event that was
Vietnam, and his way of hiding behind the truth and reality of what was
really happening. In the end, John Wade became an expert in convincing
himself that the truth was not always the truth. He kept secrets from
himself, his wife, and his campaign manager, and it was perhaps these
secrets that led to the downfall of his whole existence.

Years after John Wade returned from Vietnam, he was still experiencing
nightmares and horrible illusions about what had gone on. The war affected
John deeply, but he came out the same John Wade underneath. He continued to
cover up the truth, just as he had done years earlier with his mirror. John
Wade’s characteristics, the things that made him who he was, were the
result of his childhood, adulthood and the war – rather than the war
shaping him, it was life itself.