Foot and Thumb


Foot and Thumb

Notes on Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried:

One may note the powerful symbolism in the stories such as a rabbit’s foot, and a thumb removed from a Vietnamese corpse. Superstition and the spoils of war . . . the heavy weight of trying to survive, animal parts as good luck charms, and human body parts as trophies as proof of power over the enemy, the things they carried sometimes came as a desecration of human life.

Perhaps one of the more gruesome scenes comes in the story “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong,” as Mary Anne Bell is revealed to be wearing a necklace of human tongues, and a game has been made of “reassembling” dismembered deceased Vietnamese.

They were all at war with the war, starting from the muck up. The poverty of the enemy becomes the value, the trophy, the ownership, the “win” where there may otherwise be only confusion of purpose, lost in a jungle, trying to comprehend the moral, to listen, or trying not to listen at all.




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