The Things They Carried and Unbroken: Comprehending the Incomprehensible Pain of War

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Individuals everywhere grimace at war. Images of the strike of the gun, the burst of the bombs, and the clash of the soldiers all elicit a wince and a shiver. Moviegoers close their eyes during gory battle scenes and open them again only once the whine of the bullets stops rattling in their ears. War is hell, as the common aphorism goes, and the pain of war is equally hellish. Most individuals naturally accept this conclusion despite never experiencing war themselves. Without enduring the actual pain of war injuries, individuals still argue the importance war and its miseries. Individuals rely on media and entertainment for education about the suffering and evils of war. Writers provide an acute sense of a soldier’s physical and mental burdens through vivid imagery and relatable metaphors. Books can express the seemingly inexpressible pain of war through graphic descriptions. Individuals may then assess war—its how and why, its causes and effects—with greater insight. The writer may use the audience’s acquired understanding of war’s pain to address the significance of suffering. Through the clarity and horror of war descriptions, a writer may successfully convey the pain of war and his or her perspective and purpose to a general audience. Through the use of startling imagery, both Tim O’Brien in The Things They Carried and Laura Hillenbrand in Unbroken effectively recreate the pain of war for an audience which could not otherwise fathom its magnitude. However, while O’Brien uses his descriptions to criticize the evils which cause the pain, Hillenbrand employs her equally vivid images to praise the resilience which results from the pain.
Tim O’Brien reproduces scenes of his own Vietnam experiences to immerse his audience in the ...

... middle of paper ... painful, but without direct experience, these values hold incomplete meaning. A writer’s job is to color in the holes—to paint an entire picture of the immense, excruciating pain war inflicts. Beyond monotonous explanation, a writer produces engaging moving pictures which arouse all the senses. Once keenly aware of seemingly indescribable suffering, an audience may evaluate the purpose and significance of war’s pains. A writer latches onto an audience’s change in perception to introduce his or her own viewpoint. Powerful description not only reproduces an immersive experience but also communicates and encourages the development of new ideas.

Works Cited

Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. New York: Random House, 2010. Print.
O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Print.

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