Symbols of Water in The Important Things They Brought
Tim O’Brien’s “The important things They Brought,” informs the story of soldiers in the Vietnam War, whose lives will certainly never be the same. O’Brien utilizes visual themes to much better express the soldier’s sensations, among them being water. Bodies of water in The Things They Carried are utilized as a way to communicate a sense of loss, eventually marking the end the soldier’s lives before they get associated with the Vietnam War. In “The Things They Carried,” rivers and lakes have the ability to physically take somebody’s life, leading to awful losses for those who were emotionally linked to the victims. After the war, Norman Bowker checks out a lake that holds an excellent significance to him. Norman explains the tranquility of the lake, saying “Now, in the late afternoon, it lay calm and smooth, an excellent audience for silence, a 7 mile circumference that could be taken a trip by slow automobile in twenty-five minutes” (132 ). After explaining the soothing environment of the lake, Norman instantly dives into talking about his pal, Max Arnold, who drowned in the lake several years ago.
As Norman reminisces about his old buddy, it becomes clear that Max’s death is something that takes a toll on Norman. The truth that he is surrounded by a peaceful lake and is devoid of the war and he is still thinking about his buddy Max states something; the lake has done something unforgivable. Nevertheless, Norman Bowker is not the only one who lost a pal in an accident involving drowning. Tim O’Brien looses his good friend, Kiowa, to a shit field during the war. Years after the sewage had engulfed Kiowa, Tim takes his child back to the really area Kiowa drowned. He explains, “Our time was brief, however, and options needed to be made, and in the end I decided to take her to this piece of ground where my buddy Kiowa had actually passed away. It appeared appropriate? (176 ). Twenty years later, Tim still feels bound to visit the spot where Kiowa died, plainly suggesting that Kiowa’s death still holds an important, emotional problem in Tim’s heart. O’Brien is able to reveal that water does much more than simply sit there and look quite, there’s likewise a dangerous side to it.
Not only does water have the ability to drown someone, it also has the power to put people under a spell, symbolizing madness. When O’Brien is drafted into the war, he needs a long time to clear his head. He depends upon the tranquility of the rainy river with the hope that it might provide him with somewhat of a tranquil experience. Instead of a tranquil feeling, he got something else completely. “Bobbing there on the Rainy River, recalling at the Minnesota coast, I felt an abrupt swell of helplessness come over me, a drowning sensation, as if I had fallen overboard and was being swept away by the silver waves” (55 ). O’Brien’s description of the river makes it look like if the water cast him under some sort of spell, as he begins to have hallucinations of various people that have made some sort of effect on his life at one point or another. Having hallucinations of people increasing from the mist of a river isn’t precisely thought about regular. The river was able to make O’Brien a bit ridiculous in this chapter of the book. Water is likewise utilized as a way to represent Norman Bowker losing his mind. When the war is over, Norman Bowker goes to check out a lake back in his hometown. Norman drives around the lake considering the war for a great amount of time. “Clockwise, as if in orbit, he took the Chevy on another seven-mile turn around the lake” (133 ). Norman continues to drive circles around the lake, one time after another. The circles driven around the lake straight connect to Norman’s believed procedure. He just keeps going around in circles, over and over again, assessing the war and the people he has lost. The lake is used as a way to communicate Norman’s loss, not only of Max Arnold, but of his own mind.
O’Brien utilizes bodies of water as a way to interact the loss of the soldier’s pride and courage. Through O’Brien’s story telling, it ends up being obvious that a soldier’s life after a war will never be the exact same as it was previously, whether it be for much better or for worse. Bodies of water are used as a way to permanently mark that change in one’s essence. In the chapter On The Rainy River, O’Brien is challenged with the choice that will change his life forever; does he, or does he not battle in the Vietnam War? The hallucinations that the water induced made his decision for him. “I would go to war” I would eliminate and possibly pass away “since I was embarrassed not to”? (57 ). O’Brien makes it clear that his thinking behind his choice wasn’t something that he was proud of, he was embarrassed by it. He didn’t chose to eliminate for a worthy reason; he chose to combat since he was “embarrassed not to?.” He even confesses that “I was a coward? (58 ), clearly experiencing an individual loss of pride and guts. Water also creates memories that will never be forgotten, and will continue having an influence on people until the day they die, ultimately altering them for great. When O’Brien takes his daughter to go check out the shit field where Kiowa drowned, he had somewhat of a revelation. “Twenty years. A lot like the other day, a lot like never. In such a way, possibly, I ‘d gone under with Kiowa, and now after 20 years I ‘d mostly worked my way out” (178 ). Although in the beginning this statement appears to represent some sort of closure, there is still the word choice of “mainly?.” This passage shows that O’Brien is almost at terms with Kiowa’s death, however there will always be a part of him that was significantly affected by the death of his friend. The rivers and lakes in “The Things They Carried” mark an end; either the end of a personal sense of pride and guts, or the end of a life.
O’Brien broadens upon the power that comes along with rivers and lakes, aside from the obvious tranquillity and tranquility that comes along with them. Together with other visual concepts, water is used as an essential way to depict the supreme modification in the soldier’s lives, and how absolutely nothing can ever be quite the same after a war.