Irony in 'The Things They Carried' Essay

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How Do Writers Protest War War has now become the norm because of its impact on society. Poets include literary devices in their works to help illustrate their meaning. With this, each writer can share their protests against different wars. Writers have used literary devices throughout all of their writings. All four writers protest the war in various ways. The poem “War is Kind” by Stephen Crane depicts the Spanish War while “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen displays World War I. Tim O’Brien’s novel, The Things They Carried, portrays the Vietnam War as The Yellow Birds illustrates the Iraq War. Through the use of literary devices, writers protest against war in many different ways.

Crane glorifies and suddenly belittles war by using imagery in his poem, War is Kind. For example, Crane writes about hearing the “horse, booming drums,” once the soldiers are ready for war. Through auditory imagery, Crane allows the reader to experience the horrors of war firsthand. The juxtaposition of positive and negative images of war emphasizes that the reality of war is more gruesome than it appears. Phrases such as “Swift blazing flag of the regiment,” and “eagle with crest of red and gold,” depict the glory of war, as an eagle symbolizes bravery. These phrases are placed before “virtue of slaughter,” “excellence of killing,” and “A field where a thousand corpses lie,” to portray the destruction caused by war. The lines’ purpose is to place images into the reader's head of how great war might seem, and in doing so it displays an abundant amount of fatalities involved with war. Owen incorporates powerful imagery in his poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” to demonstrate how dreadful war can be.

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One of the soldiers dies a slow and painful death from poison gas as he is “guttering, choking, drowning” and “gargling”. This auditory imagery makes it nearly impossible for the reader to not have images and sounds of the man's death in his or her head. The soldiers all rush to put on their gas masks as someone yells “Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!” through the “Misty panes and thick green light” of the gas mask, the soldiers see their comrades “White eyes writhing in his face” and “froth-corrupted lungs”. Throughout the poem, the soldiers are being assaulted with mustard gas, causing one of their comrades to slowly die a painful death as the other soldiers watch. These vivid images will forever haunt the men post-war. Crane includes irony in his poem, “War is Kind,” to illustrate how war is inhumane. The narrator talks to a maiden, a baby, and a mother, telling them not to cry about a man's death because “War is Kind.” However, war is not kind because it takes away millions of lives and causes destruction for all the countries involved. Cranes' characterization of the fallen men in the first, third, and last stanzas offers the immortals of war and its fundamental cruelty.

O'Brien uses irony in his novel The Things They Carried to convey the devastating results of war. One of the men in the novel had “Carried tranquilizers” and then was “shot in the head”. He carries tranquilizers because he is afraid of pain. If the man was ever in a situation with pain he could use his tranquilizers to stop the pain. This is ironic because he was so afraid of pain that he ended up getting shot in the head and that is usually a quick and painless way to die. The nights are cold and wet during the war so each man “carried a green plastic poncho” to protect them against the cold nights. However, when one comrade died “they used his poncho to wrap him up” and he was lifted into the chopper. Ponchos are used to protect the soldiers from the rain but in the end, they are used for carrying dead bodies from the war. O'Brien uses a structure in his novel The Things They Carried to disapprove of war. O’Brien includes a repetition of the weight of the things that the men carry heavily throughout the passage. The men carry certain supplies that they consider necessities. Some of these necessities they have are to keep them sane, even though they would be fine if they did not have it.

The extra weight they carry is not just physical but emotional, for example, guilt and fear. The use of lists and parallel structure helped O'Brien protest the war because the list demonstrates the supplies that were necessary to survive the war. Also by using a parallel structure, he portrays the horrors of the war to the reader. The novel mentions the names of three men and conveys what their necessities are. Powers uses a structure in his novel The Yellow Birds to convey the devastating results of war. Powers uses the lack of structure to portray structure. His use of a run-on sentence shows how jumbled and chaotic his life is after the war. Powers used the stream of consciousness to make his audience feel guilty for his actions during the war. The beginning of the sentence is more mellow and calm, but towards the end of the sentence, it becomes more jumbled and emotional. His use of the second person point of view is used to make the reader see the experiences he had in the war through his eyes. Imagery, irony, and structure are used in many writings to protest war. Writers have been using literary devices to get their points of view across to the reader for centuries. We see how often we've refused to learn from the past, to find ways to build towards a better future. Repeating history, can lead to war and cause more damage to the world than good. If we continue to repeat history, the only thing left in the world will be death and destruction.

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Irony in ‘The Things They Carried’ Essay. (2024, February 23). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 30, 2024, from
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