Full Metal Jacket Psychological Analysis

Published: 2021-07-01 08:46:11
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War brings out the worst of us. It turns innocent people into men of arms, soldiers, and murderers. It destroys morality, wipes out an entire culture, and tears families apart. War is something human beings can’t help but meddle with, sometimes not even knowing why they are fighting for, or what is their cause. It changes people from inside out, either transforming them to blood-thirsty soldiers, or breaking their minds, driving them beyond reason. The one positive aspect of war, though, is the camaraderie and brotherhood that sparks between the men of a unit in its midst. Full Metal Jacket” is the perfect example of both the negative and positive aspects of a war, perfectly depicting all the psychological tests men are put through under the stress of it, and how some of them fight to keep their humanity. “Full Metal Jacket” in an anti-war film. It stares straight at the ugliness of war and the potential for violence within almost every human being, especially those who were trained, conditioned, and even twisted into military roles.
The film starts at Gunnery Sergeant Hartman’s Boot Camp on Paris Island during the Vietnam War. There, this type A personality man motivates his platoon by ceaselessly insulting and demeaning them, giving them abusive nicknames. A pragmatic recruit who talks behind his back becomes “Joker. ” A Texas recruit becomes “Cowboy. ” And a slow-witted recruit with no intelligence or ambition becomes “Gomer Pyle. ” It seems as if this man needs to inspire fear in the men he is training to obtain respect and have his orders followed.
There is, however, one specific soldier who is the constant subject of Hartman’s brutality. Gomer Pyle is the overweight boy of the group, and he constantly fails to keep up with the other more physically fit recruits in the grueling obstacle courses of Paris Island. He is a soft, good-natured kid that wants to be a Marine. It is obvious that he lacks the necessary personality and physical qualities to be a Marine, though, him being a type B personality, makes him an easy target for Hartman’s insults.



There is a point in the film in which the Sergeant finds a jelly doughnut among Pyle’s belongings. This is forbidden in the barracks, and so, enraged he dictates that instead of punishing Pyle, he’ll punish all the other recruits in the platoon. This is obviously done to inspire peer pressure among the men, perhaps thinking that with this, Pyle would stop making mistakes. This is not the case though, and one night, the recruits attack Pyle with soap bars wrapped in towels while Cowboy gags him and a few others hold him down.
At first, Joker is reluctant to attack Pyle, as he had grown close to him after days of teaching him how to do everything, from polishing his weapon to making his bed. However, after Cowboy persuades him, Joker hits Pyle longer and harder than the others. While Pyle howls in pain, Joker covers his ears while lying in his bunk, ashamed of his actions. This was positive punishment. The tactics used to make him “hard” destroy Pyle’s soul. After the traumatic experience, he slowly begins to go insane, his personality changing drastically.
He, however, shapes up and becomes the fastest and quickest rifleman of the entire platoon, impressing Hartman. Nevertheless, when Joker sees Pyle talking to his rifle and staring off into space blankly, and not responding to interaction, he realizes that Pyle is losing his mind, and confides in Cowboy about Pyle’s growing mental breakdown. By the end of basic training, Pyle clearly has been completely dehumanized by its rigors, and ends up killing both Sergeant Hartman and himself. Private Joker is that, a joker who doesn’t take things too seriously but is adept at being a soldier nonetheless.
This may be what makes him the most humane character in the movie as his jokes relieve the stress that can eventually cause death. After being assigned to teach Pyle to be a proper soldier, he proves to be a patient, gentle teacher, who uses a different tactic from the one used by the Sergeant to motivate the slow private. He then witnesses Pyle kill the Sergeant after eventually going mad at initial training. At the beginning of the movie, Joker insists that he is a killing machine; that he was “Born to Kill. This highly contrasts with his gentle personality. The liberal Joker arrives in Vietnam as part of a Media Liaison Unit with the US Army. He, instead of just taking pictures for “Stars and Stripes Magazine” actually sees a lot of combat during the movie and is ultimately tested when he kills a Vietnamese girl sniper who is responsible for killing several of the men in his unit. The sniper girl may as well symbolize the violence and desperation that war brings to the ones who are supposedly innocent.
This may also show that women, or girls, can be ruthless in protecting what is theirs; in this case, their country. The girl’s two braids symbolize her innocence, the fact that she left the stage of childhood rather quickly due to the circumstances. By the end of the movie, we see that Joker has developed from a mere protester wearing the Peace symbol showing the “duality of man” on his uniform, the Peace symbol perhaps standing as the morality that he still carries, to being a reliable grunt in the heat of battle.
The movie shows in a crude way how a war affects people’s personalities and lives in different ways. Most soldiers see their lives turn upside down when facing the violence of it. Civilians that live in the areas under attack are forced to either yield or fight back in any way they can without distinction of sex or age. Sometimes peer pressure makes us act in ways far from our nature, and this is one of the many things that can ignite a war.

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