Designed by Maya Lin, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, represents a controversial memorial that demonstrates the changing nature of public monuments, their goals, and their audiences. The post-Vietnam War era has witnessed a change in the way audiences read memorials. Both critics and audiences now read memorials of war in a more active and critical manner. The Vietnam War challenged the very nature of American patriotism and the relationship between individual and state. As Rachel Decker noted upon the unveiling of the memorial, the memorial did not just symbolize war and its losses but also redefined American patriotism and communal grief: ôThe Vietnam War shattered what it meant to be a patriotic American. So the wall, completed in 1982, was supposed to be a memorial for the veterans to create a community of grief that they hadnÆt hadö (1). This analysis will provide statements regarding the intent of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as well as critical response. A conclusion will evaluate these statements against my own aesthetic and critical analysis.
In her book Carried to the Wall: American Memory and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Kristin Ann Hass (1) uses Mikhail BakhtinÆs concept of ôheteroglossiaö to argue that the various items left at the base of the monument represent an interactive exchange between the state and individuals, symbolizing an ongoing negotiation between the state and the public with respect to patriotism, nationalism, and memorials. In the fragmented community of meaning left behind after the Vietnam War, HassÆ contention is that the memorial allows veterans and their loved ones to forge a community of meaning through the objects left at the monument. As Hass maintains of LinÆs work of art:
The design of the Vietnam War memorial recognized the impossibility of building a monument that represented the war for everyone from a singular perspective. Maya