Ptsd In The Things They Carried

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Estimated over 30% of Vietnam Veterans suffer from PTSD. Many suffer from a vast variety of mental health issues. A majority of Veterans feel that they cannot ever explain the negative experiences they suffered in war and the consequences of those. There is a fear of embarrassment and being perceived as weak. In the novel The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien, the author, conveys that Vietnam Veterans conceal their bad experiences with war; if these are revealed to others, no one knows how to respond. The chapter “Speaking of Courage” focuses on the toil of Norman Bowker when he returns home after the war. O’Brien uses hypothetical conversations to reveal how Norman feels others would react if he revealed his sheltered war experiences. Norman …show more content…

‘How’d you like to hear about the war?’ he might have asked, but the place could only blink and shrug” (137). Norman has this urge to talk to others about his war experiences, but he conceals all of them for what he thinks is for the best. When O’Brien says “the place could only blink and shrug” he is suggesting how others would react who cannot relate to war. O’Brien is conveying how people become dumbfounded by the received information. Norman’s thoughts really stress the idea of why so many Veterans keep all their thoughts concealed with the projected outcome. Veterans only want to communicate if people would clearly listen. Additionally, through dialogue, O’Brien exhibits Bowker’s self-conflict to express his experiences in war and stay sheltered. Norman arrives in the drive-up at Mama Burgers post-war and presses the intercom button to talk to the worker: “‘Well,’ he said, ‘how’d you like to hear about —’ He stopped and shook his head. ‘Hear what, man?’ ‘Nothing’”(146). O’Brien illustrating Norman’s urge to personally talk to a drive-through worker reveals the strong sense Veterans feel to communicate with anyone. Norman knows he should express his feelings but when he is …show more content…

O’Brien uses symbolism through Linda to emphasize that when Veterans communicate their thoughts to others they do not know how to respond. O’Brien flashes back to age 9 when Nick Veenhof passes Linda’s desk and takes her hat off. The visible roughness of Linda’s head shocks the class: “I remember a short, tinny echo. I remember Nick Veenhof trying to smile. Somewhere behind me, a girl said, ‘Uh,’ or a sound like that”(222). O’Brien symbolizes Linda’s cancer and the ugliness of her head as the ugliness that goes through a Veteran’s mind. Linda always covers the ugliness of her head with the red hat; similarly, Veterans hide their trauma and bad experiences from others by not communicating with anyone else about it. In this situation when Linda’s head is revealed it is seen the whole class is silent and has no idea how to respond. All that can be said is “Uh”. Furthermore, O’Brien uses the symbolism of cancer again to produce the idea that Veterans will never be able to mentally improve unless they communicate. Tim has problems accepting Linda’s death and his mom tries to explain cancer to him. His mother consoles him, “Now and then, she said, bad things start growing inside us. Sometimes you can cut them out and other times you can’t”(224). O’Brien symbolizes cancer as the trauma a Veteran carries. War gives Veterans so many horrible experiences, guilt, and trauma that grows and is

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