Rhetorical Analysis of the Things They Carried

June 26, 2017 General Studies

Mayhem of Warfare Screaming, violence, and blood everywhere! O’Brien eloquently captures the concept of war in the chapter “Spin” and also recognizes the complexity of war. Nothing, not even the evident and simplest of objects, endures as discernible. The unsteadiness that results from spinning warps the world into a realm where havoc reigns. “Spin,” made up of sentence fragments, figments of ideas, and bits and pieces of stories, foreshadows later events in the novel.

Bowker turns out to uphold an obsession with medals, Kiowa’s death emerges as the emotional crisis of the book, Kathleen disregards her father’s stories, and Azur’s cruelty leads to his involvement in O’Brien’s most shameful act. However, the checkerboard originates as the most agonizing symbol within the story. War, described as blatantly chaotic, sparks a consistent state of confusion intertwined with worry because logic and predictability hardly ever exist. Hypothetically, “[one] could watch the tactics unfolding into larger strategies” as the war progressed (31).

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O’Brien emphasizes the peacefulness of a game of checkers as a comforting, beneficial game because of the coherence and repetition. However, unlike a game of checkers, war is not “restful”, “orderly”, and under no circumstances is it ever “reassuring” (31). War is just the opposite of a game of checkers: almost always will one encounter “tunnels, mountains, and jungles”, rarely will the enemy appear visible, and a winner will not necessarily seem apparent (31).

O’Brien further establishes the calamity of war when “[one would] try to relax and right then [one] hears gunfire” (33). However, on the battlefield, one has no time to relax or even think because the enemy constantly lurks about, plotting to kill because war is a constant state of antagonism. Overall, O’Brien’s intellectual evidence clearly conveys the horror of life on the battlefield.


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