Autobiography of Bao Ninh: The Sorrow of War

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Think about tone, literary structure, specific examples + quotes

The Sorrow of War is a semi-autobiographical novel by Bao Ninh, in which he implements a non-linear narrative structure to tell his story of his survival from the horrible trenches of the Vietnam War. This book is written in a stream of consciousness with frequent shifts of narrative point of views juxtaposed with descriptions of recent events and of the distant past. Plautus, a famous Roman playwright of the old Latin period once said, “Nothing is more wretched than the mind of a man conscious of guilt.” It is the ‘conscious guilt’ of the fragmented and ‘wretched’ psyche of the protagonist Kien, along with its unique non-sequential writing style that serves as the driving force of the plot. Through the use of this technique, Ninh enables the reader to live through Kien’s sentiments of his longing for the untainted times in his past and feel the effects of survivor’s guilt from the horrors of war on the character's memory (i.e. his inability to live in the present); it is through this non-linear presentation that the author can better convey his feelings, emotions and the pivotal point of his experience to the reader. Because of the lack of chronological organization and the constant jumps between first and third person point of views in the novel, the reader is constantly embedded in Kien’s distraught mindset of the past, in which he jumps back and forth from present to past and back to present. Kien’s first flashback of Phuong in the book is one of passion and regret. When Kien hears of his comrades’ affairs with the farm girls, he begins thinking back to the source of his love, when he too was worthy of being a lover and in love. The author uses vivid descriptions, metaphors and similes to create imagery in the reader and to help the understanding of their once pure desirable love. However, he also highlights the cruelty and destruction that the war had brought upon his love; war was a no...
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