The Things They Carried and Surrealism
Surrealism is conventionally defined as something which is ‘Unreal’. Although this textbook definition may shed a bit of light on the word’s true meaning, I can assure you that Webster’s is only scratching the surface… Partially because the definition of surreal is subjective. Each and every human being on earth perceives life and the world around them differently. This means that essentially, the definition of surrealism, when applied to the nature of humankind, has almost infinite endless meaning. To someone, else, writing this paper may be something surreal. However this is generally not the case. For Tim O’Brien, and many, many others, the experience of war was surreal. The surreal carries a lot more weight than we give it credit for. Surrealism can reveal truths, offer new perspectives, and even change people. One of the more surreal experiences touched upon by O’Brien is the death of Ted Lavender: “Right then, Ted Lavender was shot in the head on his way back from peeing. He lay with his mouth open. The teeth were broken. There was a swollen black bruise under his left eye. The cheekbone was gone. Oh shit, Rat Kiley said, the guy’s dead. The guy’s dead, he kept saying, which seemed profound- The guy’s dead, I mean really.” (Pg. 12) The most surreal aspect of Lavender’s death to the rest of the platoon was its suddenness, which we also saw with the death of Curt Lemon. One minute your buddy, your friend, a guy who’s practically your brother, is alive and well. Next, he’s face down on the concrete with a bullet in his head, and he’ll never speak or move, or anything… Ever again. Experiences of this nature are never, or, rather, should never, be common place. So in its own way, each death is a trip into the surreal. Another interesting, yet powerful way O’Brien shows the non-reality of war’s truths is the fact that a combat situation can reveal who someone is, right down to their core. For example, Dave Jensen is a...
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