Structure in Bao Ninh’s The Sorrow of War portrays the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to the reader
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder consumes a person’s life after a traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD vary from person to person but often include reliving the event through intrusive flashbacks, and nightmares. The physical symptoms include pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, and sweating, they occur when a trigger reminds the victim of the traumatic event. In the novel The Sorrow of War, by Bao Ninh, the narrator tells the story of Kien, a North-Vietnamese veteran who survived the war against all odds. While the omniscient narrator remains unstated, Bao Ninh alludes that Kien and the narrator have PTSD. After the war, Kien loses everything because he cannot cope with his past; the terrible things he saw or the horrific crimes he committed in the war. Kien finds solace in writing, but the relief soon fades and he loses his childhood love, Phuong, along with most of his childhood friends who die as a result of the war. Bao Ninh portrays the narrator and Kien as victims of PTSD and depicts the symptoms of the disorder through the sentence structure, chapter structure, and chronologic order of the narration.
Bao Ninh illustrates the emotional effects of PTSD to the reader with subtle grace through the sentence structure in the narration. The author wrote the novel primarily in 3rd person narration but upon further reading, and counting, it becomes obvious that nearly every sentence making up the narration is declarative. In the passage where the man rapes Phuong (Ninh 177-180), 60 of the 62 sentences in the narration are declarative. Declarative sentences form statements; comprised of a subject and a predicate, they state facts. This type of sentence leaves little room for change; it simply states that something exists and adds a finite, concrete tone to narrative writing. Excessive declarative sentences make the reader feel that nothing...
Cited: Ninh, Bao. The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam. Trans. Frank Palmos. New York:
Riverhead, 1996. Print.
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