In an excerpt from “The Things They
Carried” by Tim O’Brien, the unnamed narrator uses third person to describe the
literal things that Vietnam War Veterans carried physically as well as what
they carried mentally and emotionally with them. The thoughts and endeavors of
Jimmy Cross, the lieutenant of an Army unit in the Vietnam War are described by
the narrator. Other members of the unit are introduced to the story as well
through descriptions of the things they are carrying, examples are Henry
Dobbins who carries extra food, Ted Lavender who carries tranquilizer pills,
and Kiowa who carries a hatchet.
O’Brien uses great detail to
describe what the men are carrying; gear, weapons, tear gas, explosives, ammo,
tools, boots, food etc. as well as grief, terror, love, longing… The author’s
list of items helps the reader understand more or less what is going on in
these soldier’s minds as well as humanizing them, making the characters more
real to the reader.
this story we meet a lot of soldiers with a lot of baggage, we learn that they
carry a lot of things from guns, to fear, to expectations. The book is not
chronological, and we’re told a lot of things, the most being that you can’t
make generalizations about the war.
Some themes in “The Things They
Carried” are friendship, weakness, as well as respect and reputation.
Friendship because it’s a better term for love; the love shared between
soldiers is the strongest form of love in the book. Girlfriends can come and go
but their country is there for them. As screwed up as friendships can be they
all are there for each other and they’re the only ones who can truly understand
each other, so the bonds they formed were very strong.
The poem “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath is a sad
rendition of a woman with daddy issues. The theme of the poem is her father,
although there are many interpretations of this poem I think that the most
important one is that Sylvia is cutting all ties with her father because he was
a piece of shit dad. I’m grateful to not know what it’s like to have a bad
father because in retrospect mine is the best dad I could have ever asked for,
unlike the author who compares her own father to being a Nazi and herself to a
Jew, “I thought every German was you”. I think that calling her father a Nazi
is especially powerful not only because Sylvia Plath’s father was alive during
some of the Nazi atrocities as a child, but also because it’s an act of
appropriation, to take a nasty part of history and combine it with her poems,
she wanted people to feel uneasy about her work.
The poem if read
aloud is like a nursery rhyme but not at all loving or kind, she’s through with
her dad because of all of the bad things he’s done or because he wasn’t a good
father to begin with. “Barely daring to breathe or achoo” makes me think that
she was afraid of him growing up, and when Plath says “Marble heavy, a bag full
of God, Ghastly statue with one grey toe” I think she was trying to explain as
a child what she thought her father looked like, a huge guy who looked like a
god and acted like one except that he is frightening and looks like a ghoul.
“Every woman adores a Racist” Plath says, describing her father’s brutality and
how it made him into an idol/god. Plath pushes beyond poetic tradition in her
choice of metaphors, and by pummeling the reader’s senses with the garish
violence of her images.
The poem has an
ironically affectionate title for one that is so violent and shows such discord
between the dead father, it’s as if Plath has to exorcise her father out of the
life and she has to go through some symbolic killing ritual (which is the
Unlike her other work, Plath uses harsh rhyme to get the message
across to the reader. It’s a sing-song kind of poem, read aloud the poem sounds
like a chant almost maybe to ward off some evil spirit like her father.
metaphors are present in the poem in relation to Sylvia and her father which
are very negative. In the poem her father is a “black shoe” and she has “lived
like a foot” for thirty years, he is a Nazi and she is a Jew, he is a devil and
she is his prey, he is a vampire who drinks her blood; “I have always been
scared of you”.
love is so hard to find, and I feel as if Plath – no matter what her father did
– will always love him. That is why she’s dedicating a poem to him (she did
write other poems about him but I feel as if this one is the most important).
This is the last thing she has to say about her dad as if it’s the last straw
“Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.”
“Howl” by Allen Ginsberg appears to
be a three run on sentences but are actually prolonged riffs in a disorganized
poem. The speaker tells us that he has been a witness to the destruction of the
“best minds” of his generation and the rest of the section is a description of
those people; who they were and what they did, and we aren’t told what
destroyed them until later. We learn that the “best minds” aren’t doctors, lawyers,
or scientists. They’re drug users, drop outs, world travelers, bums, musicians,
The key word in the first section
was “who” and the second section asks “what” as in what destroyed the best
minds of his generation? The answer is Moloch. In the Hebrew bible Moloch was a
god in which people would sacrifice children to by putting them in the fire.
Moloch is associated with war, government, capitalism, and mainstream culture,
he is an inhuman monster that kills youth and love.
The third section is addressed to
Carl Solomon, Ginsberg’s close friend from the psychiatric institute he stayed
at. Ginsberg repeats his solidarity with Solomon over and over again by
repeating “I’m with you Rockand.” The poem ends with the image from the speakers
dreams in which Solomon is walking from New York to the speakers “cottage”
where they will reunite.
Some themes in Howl are madness and
religion. Madness because people typically believe that those who are
considered normal are normal, and the speaker thinks that they’re insane.
People that are considered mentally ill, the speaker considers misunderstood
is a theme because the speaker in “Howl” seems to pick names and symbols from
many religious traditions, Ginsberg could be considered religious but he’s not
interested in waiting patiently and following rules and dogmas set down by tradition.
In “Battle Royal” the first chapter
of Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”, the narrator is blindfolded and thrown into
a boxing ring for the amusement of a group of white men. After he fights his
opponent and wins, he’s forced to deliver a speech about the importance of
submissiveness and education to African Americans.
narrator knows that his speech is ambitious, and at the time he didn’t feel
humble but he knew that was what he should tell the white people. Although the
invitation to speak is supposed to be an honor, the narrator knows that his
speech is not any more important than the stripper who is also only there for
The other boys there with him agree
to being a part of the stereotype of athletic black boys and it hurts the
narrator to know that his talents aren’t taken seriously, and he realizes that
the white leaders of the town are ready to let loose when they’re in their own
The naked white woman is a symbol of
sexual power, something that the black boys were taught to be taboo. The white
men use it as torture to the boys. In private the town leaders lose all they’re
rigidness working themselves into crazy men who chase after the naked woman.
battle royal is a way that allows the town leaders to express their aggression
toward the boys for being black in a “safe” way.
part of the battle royal is turned into a defeat of the black boys. The boys
can’t just be paid for their entertainment, instead the leaders turn even
giving them payment into something that is for their unpleasant enjoyment,
making sure there is no dignity in the fight.
Despite being humiliated the
narrator still wants to be paid, and he finds himself resisting the urge to
turn the tables on the white men despite what could happen to him. And by
kicking the narrator back onto the rug, Mr. Colcord furthers the image that
white and black are not the same and that black people are inferior.