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Motifs, Symbolism, Allegory and Paradox of Light vs Dark in The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien.

English Oral Presentation

Anetaijia Porter-Monroe

on 31 May 2011

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Transcript of Motifs, Symbolism, Allegory and Paradox of Light vs Dark in The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien.

John 3:19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
Acts 26:18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.' Light: as we generally know it Light is typically used to show the positive factors of the story. These usually include life, knowledge, safety, etc. Light generally takes on this role because people tend to be more comfortable with what they can see, also the Sun has always been known as an important factor to life and creation, this goes back to the polythestic belief of the Sun God. Darkness: as we generally know it Darkness is usually used to convey aspects that are negative and opposing to the light. These usually include death, danger, deceit, and mystery. This reputation comes from the fear of the unknown, in which people are afraid of what they are unable to see. Also, because people believe that since there is no light nothing good can be done in the dark. This can go back to God and Satan battling over power and human souls. Light vs. Dark: in the text Light and dark take on paradoxical roles in the text. Light is seen as the reason for death. The soldiers would stay together, and be stationary. This was because in the light the American soldiers were very vulnerable because they did not know the land like the Vietnamese soldiers. Since the light would make them visible to the Vietnamese soldiers they were "sitting ducks". This is why the American soldiers tried to stay in the dark as much as they could. They felt safety in the dark of the listening posts. In a war, nothing is ever what one expects it to be. O'Brien showed: forget what you know to be true because in war there are a whole different set of rules. This is why light and dark had the opposite symbolic representation from what the reader generally expects. This is the way people are taught The concepts of light vs dark changes throughout the story because O'Brien wants the reader to know that light and dark should not just have one specific role as it is taught to us but should be able to play both sides. This is because every individual uses whats around them to their own benefit, which does not mean things should be generalized based on that one individual. To the American darkness=good; light= bad; the Vietnamese vice versa. Elements do not favor one side. Death by Light There were a couple of moments in the book where the American soldiers had died with an association of light. When Curt Lemon died he had stepped into the sunlight and then stepped onto a rigged mortar round. He was the only one who died as everyone else remained "safe" in the shade. Also when Kiowa dies in the field it is because a young soldier uses a flashlight to show him a picture, which then gave away their position. Going Back to the General During Curt Lemon's death altough he had died in the sunlight the light had seemed to lift his body up towards the heavens, it looked as though the sunlight was killing him. The light seemed emphasized his death and make it a very dramatic yet "beautiful" moment.
The dark also took on its general role when O'Brien discussed the soldiers conducting the tunnel searches: "Sometimes they are required to search tunnels, something they all fear because the tunnels are dark and ghostly...dangerous things--might be down there". FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN! Similarities in Heart of Darkness The darkness of the war in Vietnam is similar to the darkness of uncivilization in Africa. In both texts, the most innocent of people can be corrupted and destroyed by the strong force of darkness. Mary Ann, the smuggled girlfriend, lost her morals during her time in Vietnam the same as Kurtz did during his time in Africa. O'Brien places her character in the story to relate to the theme of "darkness is within everyone". Her easy transition showed the struggle that the soldiers dealt with to avoid dehumanization from the insensitive actions that they committed. Green Berets The Green Berets were a group of soldiers who were never seen in the day time. They would leave in the dark of the night and go on ambushes. They were soldiers who had been dehumanized by the war and when Mary Ann lost her innocence she joined their squad. Since they only left in the night and no one would hardly ever see them because they were like shadows, this raised the level of mystery. Their hearts were full of darkness and they only lived in the physical dark.
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