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War and Love in Ninh's The Sorrow of War

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Introduction

Novelists often structure a novel around a series of carefully selected incidents. Explain the importance of two such incidents to the theme or themes of the novel. In Bao Ninh's The Sorrow of War, Ninh helps the reader to understand war as being all-conquering and consuming by comparing it to love, using a series of examples and incidents within the novel. In addition to this, after making the comparison to love, Ninh demonstrates war's capacity to taint love and in this way indicates its lasting and sorrowful effect. By comparing and referring to the two consistently within the text, Ninh is able to show their importance and the ways in which they affect one another as one of the major themes of the novel. Ninh's perception of love within the text flits between the naively sincere and the despairingly hopeful: love before and after the war are almost two different things. Love before the war is pure and fresh. ...read more.

Middle

This first portrayal of love is at once excited and desperate: all aware that they are likely to die in the near future. The love that they experience is a frantic refuge from the realities of war. Thus, with the dark cloud of despair hanging over the men, their encounters with the girls are rushed and hopeless as they realise how little time they have together. 'These small acts of love were an omen of terrible things to come.' This bitterness comes to a head when the men discover that their sweethearts have been shot. The deaths of these girls represents the end of hope for the men as they realise that even their pure and perfect love is without sanctity in the presence of war. This first portrayal of love is tragic and brief, allowing us to draw parallels with the lives of the soldiers who die in battle shortly after. As this takes place in the Jungle of Screaming Souls, it is fitting that the events indirectly force Kien to re-evaluate the presence of the ethereal in the jungle. ...read more.

Conclusion

Their encounter at the lake is a languidly peaceful stretch of the river. It is the 'long, new stretch of river, full of fire' in Kien's life that will rip the two apart with the sorrow of war. Although he establishes war's ability to conquer love, Ninh nonetheless compares the effect of war to the sensation of heartbreak. 'It was a sadness, a missing, a pain.' By doing this, not only does he make an ironic comment upon one's relationship with the mistress of War, but also succeeds in demonstrating the ways in which they are truly alike and can reduce grown men to emotional wrecks. Ninh's depiction of love lost is essentially a dull ache of sadness which sharpens with any specific trigger. It is interesting to note, however, that, on the 'recognition of some wonderful truth inside him'; Kien claims that it feels like 'love'. In this way, Ninh is able to show the last straw of hopefulness in relation to love than Kien and the other soldiers cling to. Ninh's depiction of love in war is powerfully sad. ...read more.

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