The Things They Carried And Slaughterhouse Five Essay

The Things They Carried And Slaughterhouse Five Essay

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There is a fine line between sanity and insanity, a line that can be crossed or purposefully avoided. The books The Things They Carried and Slaughterhouse-Five both explore the space around this line as their characters confront war. While O’Brien and Vonnegut both use repetition to emphasize acceptance of fate, their characters’ psychological and internal responses to war differ significantly. In The Things They Carried, the narrator and Norman Bowker carry guilt as evidence of sanity. In Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim and the innkeepers carry on with life in order to perpetuate sanity. Both authors develop a distinct theme of responding in the face of the insanity of war.
O’Brien stresses the idea that, despite moving on to stay sane, a person will still feel a heavy weight on their shoulders following a traumatic event. In the short story “The Things They Carried,” the phrase “there it is” is introduced:
“There it is, they 'd say. Over and over—there it is, my friend, there it is—as if the repetition itself were an act of poise, a balance between crazy and almost crazy, knowing without going, there it is, which meant be cool, let it ride, because Oh yeah, man, you can 't change what can 't be changed, there it is, there it absolutely and positively and fucking well is.
They were tough.
They carried the emotional baggage of men who might die” (20).
By suggesting acceptance of fate, the reiteration of “there it is” represents a coping strategy for lightening the load of emotional baggage.
In the passage, repetition, such as of “there it is”, is stressed additionally with “over and over” and presentation of mental toughness. So, the narrator is really trying to prevent the natural drift towards entry into insanity that com...


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...ings They Carried, Rat Kiley goes crazy over Curt Lemon’s death. O’Brien describes through Kiley’s brutal torture of a baby buffalo, “Rat Kiley had lost his best friend in the world. Later in the week, he would write a letter to the guy’s sister, who would not write back, but for now it was a question of pain. He shot off the tail. He shot away chunks of meat below the ribs” (75). Rat Kiley actually breaks down and cries just as Billy did. In both cases, the breakdown is seen as a move toward insanity and discloses how innocence is lost and that what occurs cannot be undone.
Through repetition and acceptance of fate, O 'Brien and Vonnegut drive home the point of how characters cope regardless of what their reactions looks like. They contrast in how Billy continues to cross the “crazy line” using escapism while O 'Brien carries on but holds onto the emotional baggage.

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