O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” and Forche’s “The colonel”

Tim O’Brien and Carolyn Forche’ are well known writers, whose works became the real heritage of modern humankind. Working on different themes, these author unanimous with the general message about horrors of war. Today, there is the attempt to compare personalization solutions and tools in O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” and Forche’s “The colonel”.

Let’s begin with “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brein. At first, it should be cleared that objects, bodies, or images hardly can perceived as some symbols there. Vice versa, the message is absolutely direct. Frankly, author of this work was intended to show out the brunt of conflict between soldier’s duty/necessity and experience of inner peace, which is inherent for people. In this order, strategic use of objects was implemented to get the real meaning of soldier’s horror, burden and frustration, what is often the invisible side of the coin and the greatest tragedy for those, who found the courage to face the challenge. Here are some quotes to support this idea: “The things they carried were largely determined by necessity”¦ P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wrist watches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes”; “Norman Bowker carried a diary. Rat Kiley carried comic books. Kiowa, a devout Baptist, Carried an illustrated New Testament that had been presented to him by his father, who taught Sunday school in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. As a hedge against bad times, however, Kiowa also carried his grandmother’s distrust of the white man, his grandfather’s old hunting hatchet.” Controversy of personal and common is obvious.

Let’s also remind the words about Lieutenant Jimmy Cross from the last scene: “He would not tolerate laxity. He would show strength, distancing himself”. The sense of duty opposed to personal feelings is the main author’s idea about analyzed text. It is supposed that he was aimed to bring reader the soldier’s soul suffering as unfairly unmentioned horror of Vietnam war.

“The colonel” by Carolyn Forche’ strategy about war personalization is much different from O’Brien’s. This work is featured by extremely symbolic objects and meaning of hidden sense. There is the opinion that selected approach can be largely explained by the nature of Salvador tyranny she wrote about. Instead of O’Brien who was aimed to show the downside of known war, Forsche’ tells us about the general concept of hidden tragedy. Her main idea is the sense of “silenced fear” caused by ruthless tyranny. Therefore, readers are able to meet next words: “There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol on the cushion beside him”¦ Broken bottles were embedded in the walls around the house to scoop the kneecaps from a man’s legs or cut his hands to lace”¦ The parrot said hello on the terrace. The colonel told it to shut up, and pushed himself from the table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say nothing”. All these quotes and some other words from the text are useful to support announced idea. At the end, Carolyn Forche’ changes the narrative vector. Author’s message can be interpreted as the notification that evil cannot be left unnoticed whatever it costs. The symbols of human ears are to the point there: “Some of the ears on the floor caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the ears on the floor were pressed to the ground”.

To sum up, two analyzed works seem to be rather different in respect to selected styles of writing, various touched themes and events. However, they are they are similar with the main concept, which is incredibly useful to share the meaning of war tragedy, in its different manifestations.

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