The story by Benjamin Percy “Refresh, Refresh” is one of the most affecting and thought provoking fiction stories produced in the recent years. Indeed, it is a masculine story, as it deals with the aspects of men’s principles, life and fates. The author provides the observation of lives of two friends whose fathers were sent to Iraq and who were trying to grow up while their fathers were fighting on the front.
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This is the story about the effect of war on people who were at home, boys in particular, the writer shows that connection between boys and their fathers are strong and that two young adolescent boys try to grow up and be as strong and fearless as their fathers and be adamant to face the situation that war made them to face. Briefly, it is a story about searching personal identity and way of life.
The two boys are growing in Oregon where almost all “fathers” were taken to the war. The author describes how war influenced lives and characters of the boys and how it changed their visions of life.
Josh and his friend are trying to adapt to the harsh reality, as they understand that if they are taken to war as their fathers, there will not be mercy and place for kindness, “If you stepped out of the ring, you lost. If you cried, you lost.
If you got knocked out or if you yelled stop, you lost. Afterward we drank Coca-Cola and smoked Marlboros…” (Percy 3). The boys fight on the backyard, and the rules are stick.
They are similar to the rules on the battle field: one wrong step, one missed gesture, one second of weakness and you killed. This is how they were preparing for cruel life and, possibly, to going to the war.
However, it was not the only reason for their fights. The author shows a strong connection between father and son. The e-mails from fathers to their sons were the best value and, as the author mentions, “sometimes, on the computer, I would hit refresh, refresh, refresh, hoping” (Percy 8) Hoping that everything will be fine and that if the boy is strong, it will add courage and power to his father and help him fight the enemy and survive.
In fact, hope is the only thing that supports the ones who are in the war and the ones who at home and think about their relatives who can be killed any time.
Furthermore, strong connection of fathers and sons can be seen in the way boys behaved and felt about their fathers. The two were fierce and they put themselves against nature, other men in the town and situations they faced. The boys new they should be ready to something terrible that could happen with them or with their fathers.
They wanted to be ready to overcome the ones who could hurt them, to give a response to offend. In such way, they wanted their fathers to proud them, “this is what we all wanted: to please our fathers, to make them proud, even though they had left us” (Percy 4). These strong words demonstrate the “masculinity” of the story and real male characters.
Finally, the boys are trying to grow up and find their identity while opposing themselves to the odds in their town. They do not have support from their fathers as they are far from and do their duties.
The boys are trying to establish justice when kidnapping a military recruiter and impend to kill him. This was done in the attempt to show him how their fathers were feeling in the war and what the boys felt at the moment.
This was an attempt to show that they are ready and strong and different from the ones who sent their fathers to war, and unlike them, they were courageous and ready to face the enemy:
“We got on our bikes and we drove to Bend and we drove so fast I imagined catching fire like a meteor, burning up in a flash, howling as my heat consumed me, as we made our way to the U.S. Marine Recruiting Office where we would at last answer the fierce alarm of war and put our pens to paper and make our fathers proud” (Percy 20).
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And thus, they grew up. Now, they were sure that they were real men and they grew up, as they would never allowed themselves to cry in the moment of danger in front of the enemy.
The story provides the way boys grew up and established their individualities. They passed the way from boxing matches to readiness to “answer the fierce alarm of war” (Percy 20) as men.
This was the way from a child to an adulthood that was determined by the situation of war. The boys had two solutions: to be weak as kidnapped military recruiter, or to be strong and courageous as their fathers. They choose the variant that was the most appropriate for them, they choose the ways of “real men”.
Percy, Benjamin. Refresh, Refresh: Stories. New York: Graywolf Press, 2007.