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The Things They Carried: Norman Bowker

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In the novel The Things They Carried, written by Tim O’Brien, the author paints a portrait in the readers mind of all the realities of the war atrocities. O’Brien tells a different short story each chapter about characters and all the struggles and difficult encounters they face. Each character carries three things during the war. The first thing the soldiers carry is the physical items necessary for survival: M-16, M-60, grenades, ammo, etc. The second thing they carry are personal items such as pebbles, comic books, girlfriend’s pantyhose, etc.

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The final thing each soldier carries are the mental burdens of the war, figuratively the heaviest and worst thing to carry. Tim Cyprian uses the character Norman Booker to display the emotional weight that the war puts on soldiers and soldier’s inability to accept the past. In the chapter “Speaking of Courage,” Norman Booker grieves over how he did not win the Silver Star medal. It’s not the physical medal that Norman is upset about not winning because he has won seven other medals prior to that.

Norman is upset because of what the medal shows what Norman failed to do, save

Kiowa. This guilt deteriorates Norman in a way that he can’t express or tell anyone. Norman repeatedly drives around the lake in the town thinking about who would listen to his stories. He makes attempts to tell numerous people but never can. “There was nothing to say. He could not talk about it, and never would” (O’Brien 167). When Norman goes to an A restaurant the person on the intercom is finally willing to listen to what ever Norman has to say. Norman can’t sum up the courage to tell the person though. Booker says the war conquered his courage.

Even if anyone listens to Booker, they would not of been able to understand the reality of war because, “In many cases a true war Story cannot be believed” (O’Brien 80). On Normal’s eleventh time around the lake, he imagines himself talking to his father about the Silver Star he should have earned. Normal’s father was very accepting in the fact that Norman let Kiowa go in to the field of “chit” but he will never understand the significance of not earning that medal. After the war is over, Booker is still grieving and is having a hard time facing reality.

When Norman returns home, the real war against reality is just beginning. Booker is a perfect illustration of how most soldiers feel when they go back home. They feel like a needle in a haystack. Some people thought the war was a horrible idea so these people felt a specific hatred to soldiers who fought in it, even if fighting wasn’t their choice. Also, soldiers saw and did things that can’t be taken back. They have the guilt of killing people on their shoulders, they have seen death of close friends and they have been through the worst conditions f their lives.

Soldiers get mentally and physically destroyed when they are in the field. Norman is symbolic of the isolation that soldiers feel when they go back home. ‘The thing is there’s no place to go. Not just in this lousy town. In general. My life, mean. It’s almost like I got killed over in Name… Hard to describe. That night when Kiowa got wasted, I sort of sank down into the sewage with him… Feels like I’m still in deep chit” (O’Brien 170). Norman just could not adjust to reality after what had happened in Name. Eight months later, Norman Booker hanged himself at a YMCA.

One thing that O’Brien would say about how he got over the war was by writing. He also says that the best way to get over the past is to retell it so you can learn to accept the harshness and severity of it. Normal’s inability to tell people about the war is one of the key factors to why he was suffering so bad when he returned home. Norman suffered severe trauma and because he kept all of his thoughts to himself and couldn’t adjust to society, he ended up taking his fife away from all the anxiety and regret and isolation that the war caused.

Time’s use of Norman Booker shows the reader how hard it is for soldiers to adjust to society when they return home. Norman Booker is a perfect example Of when soldiers return to their homes, they fight a bigger war with in themselves than the one the just fought. In order to face your past, you must talk about it and be strong. If you don’t want to face your past you can try to just forget about it or you will end up as Norman, emotionally unstable with an unhappy ending.

Cite this The Things They Carried: Norman Bowker

The Things They Carried: Norman Bowker. (2018, Feb 05). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-things-they-carried-norman-bowker-free-essay/

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