Sometimes hey get that and sometimes they don’t. In this novel, water, typically mentioned in the form of a river, cannot only symbolize life but also death. “Across cultures, water is seen as the driving element behind creation; as an archetype, water seems to possess a cleansing, renewing power that is equaled only by its raw power to destroy. “(IOWA) Water is life giving, but it’s actually not always pure and about resurrection and purification. It can be equally as pathetic and just sad. For instance, Norman Booker looking for purification in the lake but finding nothing.
After returning from the war, Norman Booker drives around the lake near his home countless times. He circles the lake trying to find purity in a place, which was “often filthy and algae”(132). One of his last remarks he makes is about “That night when Kiowa got wasted, I sort of sank down into the sewage with him… Feels like I’m still in deep chit. (156) He ends up hanging himself on not just anything, but on a water pipe, because the purity he tries to obtain is unreachable. Resurrection is a very powerful image in The Things They Carried, especially in he chapter of “The Rainy River”.
The River is a powerful symbol in its own right; it represents not only resurrection, but also a crossroad. Elroy takes Tim fishing and directs the boat within swimming distance to Canada; all Tim can do is cry. He refuses to face the shame and humiliation of that decision. In the end, Tim cannot chose between going with honor, or leaving and becoming a coward. “Right then, with the shore so close, I understood that I would not do what I should do. ” This decision will haunt him for the rest of his life, and will impact it as well.
Tim decides to not go into the river, however not going in is a sort of resurrection; it introduces a new chapter in his life. “In The Field” when the soldiers are looking for Kiosk’s body, Jimmy Cross remarks that “[He] had been a fine soldier and a fine human being… There was no way Lieutenant Cross would allow such a good man to be lost under the slime of the chit field”(1 56). All the while it keeps pouring, the rain keeps coming, and he wishes it would let up. However he soon comes to the conclusion that ‘The rain was the war and you had to fight it'(1 56).
Jimmy cross carries guilt like he carries around his “45-caliber pistol that weighed 2. Pounds fully ‘The Rainy River” is a counter-symbol to The Song Tara Bong in Vietnam. Mary Anne becomes a crazy psychotic murderer after immersing herself in the waters of Vietnam, The Song Tara Bong slowly infects you until get sucked in. The innocent girl that Mary Anne was slowly became a memory. The most obvious shift is her changing outlook of Vietnam she says that “Sometimes I want to eat this place. The whole country- the dirt, the death- I just want to wallow it and have it there inside me” (O’Brien 106).
In “Sweetheart of the Song Tara Bong”, Mary Ann.’s decent into madness was a slow process. When she first came to Vietnam she was the optimal innocent girl. She wore a cute little pick sweater and little culottes. However as with most things in Vietnam she began to warp into a she-beast, as portrayed by her shift in fashion with a necklace of tongues. That and she speaks very strangely about Vietnam, in a way that really creeps out her boyfriend. Her innocent light is devoured by Vietnam that “What happened to her… S what happened to all of them you come over clean and you get dirty and then afterward it’s never the same” (114) Water is resurrection in the form of crossroads, new chapters, and changing. Some of the characters in The Things They Carried showed this in spades. Tim adding to his failure at “The Rainy River,” his whole life and his perspective after that is more grown up, and at times slightly morbid. However, when he finally returns to Vietnam and sees the country has moved beyond the war, he realizes he can do the same.