Reflections…The Things They Carried


Reflections . . . on Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried:

The perceptions posted on other participants’ blogs served as great inspiration for reply posting. With comparisons of The Things They Carried to the likes of Forrest Gump and The Hobbit, the influence of one work is put in conversation with other works. Written works “talk” to each other through the reader’s perception and interpretation of the texts. The reader makes connections through reminders of previous experiences. This was demonstrated in the poem/post Shrimp (2012).

A comment was made of the connection of The Things They Carried with Forrest Gump. This served as a reminder of Bubba’s monologue of the numerous ways shrimp may be prepared. The dialog was edited to represent “they” from The Things They Carried, but, instead of shrimping as a prosperous business after returning from war, “they” “shrimped” (interpreted to mean “warring”) as an obligation to carry out their duty. By this interpretation, Forrest, Bubba, and Lt. Dan had been “shrimping” long before the end of the war.

The juxtaposition of “preparing shrimp” as food with the massacring of Vietnamese opposition means to portray the imbalance between those involved. The United States as an industrialized nation “cooked” Vietnam as a lesser industrialized nation, or “shrimp” eaten by a “whale,” or “shark,” or other such larger predatory animal symbolism.

The last stanza of “Shrimp” drew a few comments that asked for elaboration and served as wonderful criticism of the stanza’s possible meanings, and a chance for the author to defend the stanza’s inclusion. Without the last stanza, the poem would otherwise be Bubba’s monologue rewritten. The last stanza punctuates Bubba’s conclusion, “That . . . that’s about it.” The “they” narrator from the “Shrimp” poem interrupts the conclusion with another possible use for “shrimp” “they” could attempt if only they understood the potential detriment of “shrimping” on the region.

As well, the “boxing” of anything entails limitations to “it,” a shrimp supply, chocolates in a “box,” one’s open-mindedness, one’s imagination, one’s enemies, etc. By “boxing” life and “shrimping” others, the poem means to portray the tyranny of predominate cultures’ negatively assumed authority over “subordinate” cultures.

In summary, the “Shrimp” poem was a great success for its driving the imagination and commentary of the author and others. The texts seem to “talk” to each other through the readers’ interpretations, the analyses, and subsequent commentary produced by others. The communication and interaction between authors illustrates the ways in which people make connections through texts and experiences.





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