The role of symbols in The Things They Carried
Symbolism in O’Brien’s The Things They Carried runs rampant and plays a part in conveying the author's message. O’Brien uses symbols to link ideas together. Symbols can be decrypted by the reader to unearth the true essence of the work. Symbols appear in all forms in the work, recurring as both tangible and intangible. O’Brien chooses to embed symbols everywhere in the text, in the structure, the characters. Some symbols are more discreetly hidden than others, and some are out in the open and should be able to be picked up by a competent reader. The role of symbols in The Things They Carried is to show hidden messages, address the theme of the whole work, engage the reader in reading, and expose the fictionality of the work.
An important symbol early in the story is the weight of the things they carried. In the first chapter, “The Things They Carried”. O’Brien continuously repeats the exact weight of various necessities . Eventually, he shifts from tangible, physical objects, to intangible, psychological burdens. O’Brien utilizes a much more sober and melancholy tone when discussing the psychological weight. “The carried the land itself – Vietnam, the place, the soil, a powdery orange-red dust…. They carried the sky, the whole atmosphere, they carried it.”(O’Brien 14). O’brien writes about how foreign the place was for alpha company. It is significant that the land was not carrying them, but rather that they were carrying the land. The terrain and atmosphere was so foreign to them that they mentally fought a constant conflict with it. The awesome magnitude of the other intangible burdens shows an important underlying message. The soldiers in Vietnam fought a conflict in their own minds that was several bounds higher than the physical conflict that one would typically expect from a war. This whole message was given through the symbol of weight.
Another symbol that plays an indispensable...
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