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Chapter description...things are being described...with the words...no not all the words, but some of the words. Sure...definitely...some but not all of the words.

Trauma in "The Things They Carried"

The chapter illustrates the need to discuss and communalize trauma, especially when the experience has been shared. Cross' isolation after Lavender's death exacerbates his grief. By contrast Bowker and Kiowa have the opportunity to talk. Kiowa's repetition of the same information borders on the reliving described by Shay and van der Kolk and van der Hart. The talking though makes Kiowa feel better. Similarly Bowker does not want to re-confront Lavender's death, but after Kiowa obeys Bowker and goes quiet, Bowker immediately requests Kiowa keep talking -- masking his feelings with the statement, "One thing I hate, it's a silent Indian" (18). Bowker does not want to talk about Lavender's death but the only thing worse than talking about the experience is not talking about it.

"while Kiowa explained how Lavender died, Lieutenant Cross found himself trembling.
He tried not to cry. With his entrenching tool, which weighed 5 pounds, he began digging a hole in the earth.
He felt shame. He hated himself. He had loved Martha more than his men, and as a consequence Lavender was now dead, and this was something he would have to carry like a stone in his stomach for the rest of the war."

Identity and Gender in "Spin"

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Loss of Innocence in "Spin"

There are multiple stories in “Spin”, but Ted Lavender’s puppy and what was done to it demonstrate how war erodes a person’s innocence and what they will do as a result. One day, Azar straps the puppy Lavender adopted to a Claymore device and kills it. To most people, the idea of this is horrifying. A puppy is often seen as innocent, young, and makes no effort to harm others. Azar defends himself by saying his actions are that of his childlike self. His excuse intends to explain that his actions are normal and make sense because of his young age. Although, Azar’s actions to not reflect those of a child, but rather, they reflect those of a soldier who has experienced trauma. He is so damaged and desensitized that he tries to justify his horrid actions by his innocence. It is evident that Azar has hardly any innocence remaining and is actually numb to his surroundings.

 

“I’m just a boy” (35).

O’Brien’s chapter, “Spin”, illustrates a loss of innocence through the juxtaposition of Ted Lavender and Azar. Beginning from the symbolism that lies in his name, Ted Lavender is a character associated with peace, love and tranquility. In the chapter, he adopts and cares for an orphan puppy. He carries it around in his rucksack until one day Azar straps it down to an antipersonnel mine and blows it up. Azar represents the loss of innocence through his inability to comprehend why he had upset everyone by killing the puppy and by attempting to defend his actions through his youth and immaturity. By placing Ted and Azar side by side, O’Brien provides the contrast between innocence and the lack of and how war can pilfer one’s innocence along with pureness and morals.

“...Ted Lavender adopting an orphan puppy ー feeding it from a plastic spoon and carrying it in his rucksack until the day Azar strapped the puppy to a Claymore antipersonnel mine and squeezed the firing device” (35).

The Nature and Effects of War

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Faith, Belief, and Superstition in "The Things They Carried"

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Love in "The Things They Carried"

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Fracturing of Themis in "The Things They Carried"

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Fellowship and Comrades in "Spin"

“Spin” explores the relationships between comrades, specifically during the times when they are not in combat. Norman Bowker shares his greatest wish with Tim one night, revealing the trust that they have in each other. Kiowa teaches a rain dance to Kiley and Jensen as he shares a part of their culture with them. Bowker and Dobbins play a game of checkers every night that becomes a ritual the other soldiers sometimes come to watch, showing that even through the instability of war, the men can come together to form stable habits and traditions. These little stories regarding the playful memories they shared together through war illustrate the importance of comrades and the fellowship they shared. Through the turbulent setting and action of the war, friendship is needed to lift their spirits and make “good” out of a bad situation. These experiences show how the soldiers are able to bond with each other and how their camaraderie allows them to work together to survive the war, not just physically but also mentally and emotionally.

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“The war wasn’t all terror and violence...Things often took on a curiously playful atmosphere, like a sporting event at some reform school. The competition could be lethal, yet there was a childlike exuberance to it all, lots of pranks and horseplay” (30, 35).

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Death in "The Things They Carried"

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Courage in "The Things They Carried"

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The Soldier and the Civilian in "The Things They Carried"

“Spin” explores the similarities between soldier and civilian life, and the ways that the soldiers themselves tried to bring some of the lightness of home to the darkness of the war in Vietnam. The series of anecdotes in this chapter support this theme: Norman Bowker and Henry Dobbins playing checkers, the troops befriending an old man who guided them through the wilderness, and Ted Lavender taking care of a puppy—all of these stories showed an effort on the men’s part to make the war more tolerable, more like civilian life.

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“On occasions the war was like a Ping-Pong ball. You could put a fancy spin on it, you could make it dance” (31).

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Atomization in "Spin"

In “Spin,” Norman Bowker is figuratively atomized by his father. All his father seems to care about is how many medals Bowker is going to earn while serving in VIetnam. He is not being seen as a person who is dealing with the horrors of war, but rather as a potential source of pride for the father. Bowker is being broken down into nothing more than a soldier capable of earning medals and awards in order to impress others.

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I remember Norman Bowker and Henry Dobbins playing checkers every evening before dark… You knew where you stood. You knew the score. The pieces were out on the board, the enemy was visible, you could watch the tactics unfolding into larger strategies. There was a winner and a loser. (O’Brien 31)
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Key Authorial Choices in this chapter

 

  1. “On occasions the war was like a Ping-Pong ball. You could put a fancy spin on it, you could make it dance.” (O’Brien 31)
  2. “Like when Ted Lavender went too heavy on the tranquilizers.’How’s the war today?’ somebody would say, and Ted Lavender would give a soft spacey smile and say, ’Mellow man. We got ourselves a nice mellow war today.’” (O’Brien 31 and 32)
  3. “It was boredom with a twist, the kind of boredom that caused stomach disorders.” (O’Brien 33)
  4. “I feel guilty sometimes. Forty-three years old and I’m still writing war stories… In a way, I guess she’s right: I should forget it. But the thing is that you don’t forget. But the thing about re-remembering is that you don’t forget… That’s the real obession. All those stories.” (O’Brien 33)
  5. “Or Kiowa teaching a rain dance to Rat Kiley and Dave Jensen, the three of them whopping and leaping around barefoot while a bunch of villagers looked on with a mixture of fascination and giggly horror. Afterward, Rat said, ‘So where’s the rain?’ and Kiowa said, ‘The Earth is slow, but the buffalo is patient,’ and Rat thought about it and said, ‘Yeah, but where’s the rain?’” (O’Brien 35)
  6. “Forty-three years old, and the war occured half of a lifetime ago, and yet remembering makes it now.” (O Brien 36)
  7. “The memory traffic feeds into a rotary up on your head, where it goes in circles for a while, then pretty soon imagination flows in and the traffic merges and shoots off down a thousand different streets. As a writer, all you can do is pick a street and go for a ride, putting things down as they come to you. (O’Brien 33)
  8. “If you weren’t humping you were waiting. I remember the monotony. Digging foxholes. Slapping mosquitos. The sun and the heat and the endless patties. Even in the deep bush where you could die any number of ways, the war was nakedly and aggressively boring.” (O'Brien 32, 33)
  9. “Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story. (O’Brien 36)
  10. “You’re pinned down in some filthy hellhole of a paddy, getting your ass delivered to kingdom come, but then for a few seconds everything goes quiet and you look up and see the sun and a few puffy white clouds, and the immense serenity flashes agaisnt your eyeballs-the whole world gets rearranged-and even though you’re pinned down by a war you never felt more at peace.” (O’Brien 34)

3 thoughts on ““Spin””

  1. 1) The structure of the stories being told throughout the chapter.
    2) “You knew where you stood. You knew the score. The pieces were out on the board, the enemy was visible, you could watch tactics unfolding into larger strategies. There was a winner and a loser. There were rules” (31).
    3) “All the peace, man, it felt so good it hurt. I want to hurt it back” (34).
    4) “Like when Ted Lavender went too heavy on the tranquilizers” (31).
    5) “Well, you’d think, this isn’t so bad. And right then you’d hear gunfire behind you and your nuts would fly up into your throat and you’d be squealing pig squeals” (33).
    6) “On occasions the war was like a Ping-Pong ball. You could put fancy spin on it” (31).
    7) “For the whole day we’d troop along after him, playing an exact and ruthless game of follow the leader” (32).
    8) “Things often took on a curiously playful atmosphere, like a sporting event at some exotic reform school” (35).
    9) When Azar blew up Lavender’s puppy with a mine.
    10) “After an hour or so he sealed up the envelope, wrote FREE in the upper right-hand corner, and addressed it to his draft board in Ohio” (30).

  2. 1) “You knew where you stood. You knew the score. The pieces were out on the board, the enemy was visible, you could watch tactics unfolding into larger strategies. There was a winner and a loser. There were rules” (31).
    This authorial choice connects to the theme of the nature of war. War is an unpredictable game, and is one where there are not set rules. Nothing is clear and nothing is certain. When playing checkers, you know the rules and there is a clear winner and loser. The checkers game contrasts with the complications of war and brings out the simple rules that soldiers wish that they had.

    2.) When Azar blew up Lavender’s puppy with a mine.
    This authorial choice connects with the theme of loss of innocence. When Ted Lavender found a puppy it stood as a symbol of innocence in the atrocities of war. This puppy stood as one pure thing surrounded by the moral conflicts and devastation in Vietnam. When Azar decided to blow up this puppy he destroyed its innocence. This shows that nothing is truly innocent in war.

    3.) “Like when Ted Lavender went too heavy on the tranquilizers” (31).
    This authorial choice connects with the theme of trauma. Ted Lavender was a soldier in war who decided to block out his pain with tranquilizers. The trauma, pain and death that he was exposed to proved itself to be too much for him. The only things he could use to cope with the pain and trauma were his tranquilizers. They numbed him from what war truly happening, acting as a way to deal with trauma.

  3. When Azar blew up Lavender’s puppy with a mine
    The scenario where Azar strapped a puppy to a claymore explosive device exemplifies the theme of gender because Azar had stated “What’s everybody so upset about? I mean Christ, I’m just a boy?” This demonstrates the theme of gender because Azar used his gender and being a “boy” to commit an inhumane act.

    “All the peace, man, it felt so good it hurt. I want to hurt it back” (34).
    In the quick peace story we learn about a soldier who exemplifies the theme of loss of innocence. This theme is conveyed because the soldier cannot wait to be back in action and wants to hurt others, which would be different to his prior self before the war. As a result, the theme of loss of innocence is portrayed.

    “You knew where you stood. You knew the score. The pieces were out on the board, the enemy was visible, you could watch tactics unfolding into larger strategies. There was a winner and a loser. There were rules” (31).
    O’brien comparing the war to a ping-pong ball exemplifies the theme of nature of war because everyone knows the unspoken, general rules. The soldiers knew if they were ahead of their opponents, where their enemies were located, and what their tactics were.

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