Symbolism in O’Brien’s The Things They Carried tallies rampant and plays a portion in conveying the author’s message. O’Brien uses symbols to associate thoughts together. Symbols can be decrypted by the reader to unearth the true kernel of the work. Symbols appear in all signifiers in the work. repeating as both touchable and intangible. O’Brien chooses to implant symbols everyplace in the text. in the construction. the characters. Some symbols are more discreetly hidden than others.
and some are out in the unfastened and should be able to be picked up by a competent reader. The function of symbols in The Things They Carried is to demo concealed messages. turn to the subject of the whole work. prosecute the reader in reading. and expose the fictionality of the work. An of import symbol early in the narrative is the weight of the things they carried. In the first chapter. “The Thingss They Carried” . O’Brien continuously repeats the exact weight of assorted necessities.
Finally. he shifts from touchable. physical objects. to intangible. psychological loads. O’Brien utilizes a much more sober and melancholic tone when discoursing the psychological weight. “The carried the land itself – Vietnam. the topographic point. the dirt. a powdered orangish-red dust… . They carried the sky. the whole atmosphere. they carried it. ” ( O’Brien 14 ) . O’brien writes about how foreign the topographic point was for alpha company. It is important that the land was non transporting them. but instead that they were transporting the land.
The terrain and ambiance was so foreign to them that they mentally fought a changeless struggle with it. The amazing magnitude of the other intangible loads shows an of import implicit in message. The soldiers in Vietnam fought a struggle in their ain heads that was several bounds higher than the physical struggle that one would typically anticipate from a war. This whole message was given through the symbol of weight. Another symbol that plays an indispensable function in The Things They Carried is “sharp gray eyes” ( O’Brien 67 ) . Three characters in the work have grey eyes. Martha. Elroy Berdahl. and Curt Lemon. All three of these characters’ beings can be called into inquiry. It is really plausible that these characters are non existent. nonsubjective people. but instead meta-fictional devices used by O’Brien to raise esthesis in the reader. If so. the gray eyes play a function in signaling this. If the reader discovers this symbol. they can patch together the fictionality of these characters. and finally to the meta-fictional nature of the full work.
A really outstanding symbol in the work is the ever-present struggle. but intimacy. between war and love. O’Brien uses this symbol often and ubiquitously throughout the novel. by kniting it with the construction of the book itself. He repeatedly combines his war narratives with his love narratives. and in making so. removes the clear differentiation between the two. He will get down the chapter speaking about decease in war. and so in the same chapter reminisce about love. For illustration. when Ted Lavender died. Jimmy Cross started believing about Martha. During Rat Kiley’s narrative about Mark Fossie. when Mark Fossie is deployed in a war. he brings his girlfriend. his love into his war. She finally begins to have on disguise and face pigment. She blends into the war. She becomes so caught up in the battle that it becomes impossible to separate her from the war. She appears once more. but merely briefly so. When Timmy and Linda go on their day of the month together. they see a war film. set uping a connexion between the two. It is through this symbol that O’Brien conveys the subject and intent of The Things They Carried. that love and war may be antonyms. but in kernel. they are one and the same. An illustration of a character as a symbol is Kathleen. She represents the reader.
Like the reader. O’Brien besides tells her his narratives. When make up one’s minding how he should explicate the whole experience to her. he edits the narrative. He engages in the same procedure with the reader. O’Brien expresses through her character the defeat that he feels. He can’t convey his message exhaustively. because the reader won’t understand the full resonance of what he felt. merely as Kathleen doesn’t. Kathleen says “I don’t even cognize what. It smells rotten” . This is what the reader feels. misgiving in the narrative. O’Brien’s intent in utilizing this symbol is to convey to the reader the ground why he sometimes adds or subtracts from narratives. He wants the reader to acknowledge this and genuinely hold on the full experience of Vietnam. Another symbol in the work is Elroy Berdahl. Berdahl in the book is placed to be a human representation of God. This of class is an reading. but it can be assumed that this was O’Briens purpose because of this quotation mark. “ He was the true audience. He was a informant. like God. or like the Gods. who look on in absolute silence as we live our lives. as we make our picks or fail to do them. ” ( O’Brien 57 ) . The apposition of Berdahl and God leads the belief that they are the same. If Berdahl truly is God. so it is important that he remains so soundless and merely tickers peacefully. What this represents. is that God genuinely did non play a function in O’Brien’s determination to travel to war. and by association. the events of the war.
He uses this to set every bit much distance between God and the novel as he can. This was achieved merely by making a human symbol of God. Elroy Berdahl. Yet another symbol employed by O’Brien is Linda. Linda is a tool that O’Brien uses to associate the thoughts of love. war. memory. and decease. The fact that Timmy is 9 old ages old in the chapter “The Lives of the Dead” shows that O’Briens adulthood degree has no difference between when he was 9 and when he was at war. The love that O’Brien felt toward Linda is so guiltless. and so she dies so all of a sudden. But O’Brien does non halt loving her. instead the contrarian consequence happens. and he starts loving Linda even more. His love is enhanced greatly by memory. Linda convinces him to halt mourning the dead. and care for their memories. This is what enables O’Brien to travel to vietnam. On their day of the month. they go to see a war film. and Linda smilings in the face of decease. When Linda dies. she tells him that Death does non count. Her organic structure is gone. but her psyche will populate on. O’Brien applies the lessons learned from Linda to his experiences in Vietnam. “In Vietnam. excessively. we had ways of doing the dead seem non rather so dead. Shaking custodies. that was one manner. By cold-shouldering decease. by moving. we pretended it was non the awful thing it was. ” ( O’brien 225 ) .
Linda is the ground that O’Brien has written the novel. He says “We kept the dead alive with narratives. ” ( O’Brien 226 ) . That is what he does for Linda. every bit good as for the remainder of his fallen companions in Alpha Company. Approaching the terminal of the work. O’Brien relates Linda to the remainder of the work. “She’s non the corporal Linda ; she’s largely made up. with a new individuality and a new name. like the adult male who ne’er was… I loved her and so she died. And yet right here. in the enchantment of memory and imaginativeness. I can still see her as if through ice… I can see Kiowa. excessively. and Ted Lavender and Curt Lemon. and sometimes I can even see Timmy…” ( O’Brien 232 ) . O’Brien is maintaining the dead alive through narratives. And therefore is revealed the true intent of The Things They Carried. O’Brien writes the work to salvage the lives of his fallen soldiers. Linda. and himself. He hopes that by composing the novel. precisely as his memories describe. he can commemorate everyone he writes about. particularly Timmy. who was lost in the war.
The usage of symbolism in The Things They Carried is present in many signifiers. The frequence of symbolism in the work indicates a deliberate effort by O’Brien to portray a greater significance through them. Each symbol is used to portray a piece of O’Briens message. and this becomes a Southern Cross of the subject as a whole. O’Brien uses symbolism embedded throughout the novel to convey attending to of import literary elements and the intent of his full work.
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