The Things They Carried and narrative as a vessel for truth

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For a while now, For Whom the Bell Tolls has been my main war novel. I read it when I was sixteen, and it was the first story to expose to me the deluded simplification of war and violence that most people grow up learning–at least, it was the first one that I listened to and understood. I’ve tried rereading it a couple times, but I’m only ever able to get through the first quarter of the book, up until Pilar tells Jordan the story of how the Spanish republican rebels captured her home town and executed the local fascist party members. It was a brutal and emotionally draining message about how ideology becomes just an abstract concept for an individual caught in a war, and how all a person can really do is try to survive and keep on being a human, but ideology can even take their humanity from them. Every time I finish that part, the force of the truth of warfare is just too heavy. I need to take a break, and I never get back to it.

Now I’ve just finished reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and I feel like it deserves to be my new go-to war novel, except that I’m not sure if it’s fair to compare the two. It might not exactly be fair to compare The Things They Carried to any other war novel I can think of. It’s just as concerned with the truth of warfare as any book brave enough to take on something like that, but it’s the only one that grapples with the challenge itself: how to tell that kind of truth at all. More

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Schindler’s List, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and “saying about”/”saying with.” Also Spielberg and Kubrick

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Illinois Wesleyan is pretty big on theater, and I ended up seeing a few plays for English classes. I can’t remember at all what the last one I saw was called, but I can vividly remember what it was about. A Jewish family from Poland is separated before the second war when the father moves to America with the younger of the two daughters. Their plan was to wait for him to make enough money to bring over the mother and other sister and her husband, but the war breaks out before that can happen. The play is set after the war, when the older sister is found alive and comes to America to live with her sister in the city.

Some of my friends loved it to death, while a few others agreed with me that there seemed to be something not quite right about it. I think most of my problems came from acting and directing decisions, but I didn’t know how to articulate it at the time, so when my friend asked me how it didn’t tear my heart open, I said something stupid like “There’s been tons of things about the Holocaust. What is there left to say about it?” My friend immediately said “everything.” More