Presentation on theme: "How is the Unreal used to make sense of the Real in The Things They Carried?"— Presentation transcript:
How is the Unreal used to make sense of the Real in The Things They Carried?
There are 3 levels… 1) Individual Character 2) Unreal Narrators 3) Real World Author
1) How do individual characters use the unreal to make sense of the real?
Mary Anne and Mark Fossie: “Sweetheart of The Song Tra Bong” O’Brien takes two similar characters and places them in the same situation. Mary Anne makes sense of the situation by immersing herself in the surreal side of Vietnam – necklace of tongues, tribal music etc. Mark Fossie tries to hold onto the past and is left behind. How do individual characters use the unreal to make sense of the real?
Henry Dobbins: wears his girlfriend’s pantyhose around his neck as a form of protection against the horrors of Vietnam. The superstitions allow him to understand that his life could end at any moment in Vietnam but that living in a state of high alert and paranoia would be detrimental. The symbol of his girlfriend’s pantyhose shakes away the self destructive doubt that haunts other characters. How do individual characters use the unreal to make sense of the real?
In “Style” the girl’s dancing links to how Dobbins carries his girlfriend’s stockings around his neck. These abstract actions are an attempt to avoid confrontation with the horrors of war Dobbins’s stockings can’t deflect bullets and the girl’s dancing cannot bring back her family, her village, or life as she knew it before the war. How do individual characters use the unreal to make sense of the real?
With these characters we see a range of coping methods. The main methods are: telling stories, superstitions, or immersion as a way of understanding. Telling stories and having superstitions are both ways of distracting oneself from the physical and focusing on the emotional. Mary Anne’s immersion technique allows her to focus entirely on her situation and grow to understand and befriend it. How do individual characters use the unreal to make sense of the real?
2) How do the narrators use the unreal to make sense of the real?
O’Brien’s stories about others: Coping mechanisms are a way of understanding what has happened O’Brien uses his stories to try to comprehend the way he feels in certain situations. How do the narrators use the unreal to make sense of the real?
“How To Tell a True War Story” in real life, would be a disturbing and traumatic event. Although something absurd has just happened he is re-contextualising it as natural. How do the narrators use the unreal to make sense of the real?
“…and when he died it was almost beautiful, the way the sunlight came around him and lifted him up and sucked him high into a tree full of moss and vines and white blossoms.”
The gore is never even mentioned Surreal Therefore he is able to turn the story of Curt Lemon from a war story (which would destroy him the same way such stories destroyed Norman Bowker) into a love story and a celebration of life. How do the narrators use the unreal to make sense of the real?
O’Brien’s stories about himself: “The Man I Killed” Star-shaped hole, strips of flesh. Third person. He makes up a story about the Vietnamese man’s life, which is based off his own life. He is trying to understand his own life. The narrator is distracting and separating himself from ‘fact’ in order to understand something deeper. How do the narrators use the unreal to make sense of the real?
Layers of narration (Norman Bowker & O’Brien): “Speaking of Courage” Kiowa → Norman Bowker → Tim O’Brien →Audience We are several steps removed from the death How do the narrators use the unreal to make sense of the real?
Norman Bowker tells us that he was as brave as he possibly could have been, but even that much bravery was not enough to save his friend. This gives us insight not only into Kiowa’s death but also into Bowker’s emotions. How do the narrators use the unreal to make sense of the real?
Overall, the narrators demonstrate a range of coping mechanisms. O’Brien’s stories are theatrical and easy to comprehend. Those of other characters are confused and literal. O’Brien separates himself from the horror he witnesses by focusing on beauty. If something directly affects him he uses third person to separate himself from it. How do the narrators use the unreal to make sense of the real?
We see that O’Brien’s coping methods are the most successful as he is able to communicate the stress and anxiety that he feels. By unloading his burden via a story, it becomes a light load that is carried by everyone. As opposed to the overwhelming weight Bowker succumbs too. Are the narrators use of the coping mechanisms effective?
3) How does the author use the unreal to make sense of real?
How does the author use the unreal to help make sense of the real? Tim O’Brien (author) struggled with his own decision to take part in the Vietnam war. Directly addresses his audience “What would you do?” and “Would you cry, as I did?”. This is his way of putting us in his shoes and thus applying the story’s meaning and feeling to real life.
He became an author after the war When he returned he was deeply affected by the war and so began to write stories. This helped him cope, just the same as Tim O’Brien (the fictional character) does. So if O’Brien is addressing us outside of his book, what is he trying to say?
He is demonstrating to us, the importance of being able to overcome the difficult times in life. The necessity of having a healthy coping method. War-zone ↔ World we can associate with. (Linda)
Even though the coping mechanism may not be a physical thing, it is still important. Through The Things They Carried O’Brien is able to pass on a lesson he had to fight in the Vietnam war and then suffer for many years to understand. The unreal helps us to understand the real by separating negative memories from ourselves and finding ways to justify what has happened.
He struggled with the situation he was put in. The whole book functions as a vessel to enforce this point so that we may benefit from it: “I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy’s life with a story.”