Critical Analysis of "Sorrow of War" by Bao Ninh,

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Critical Analysis of Sorrow of War

By: Aadharsh. D 11-B

        In this novel by Bao Ninh, Ninh gives an honest narration of the reality of the Vietnam War. The protagonist is Kien, a North Vietnamese soldier, experiences war and all of its horrid effects. Kien endures the loss of fellow soldiers, stress of injury and trauma and also the effect the war has on his relationships with his loved ones. The author captures the raw realities of fighting and as well as how the people were affected by it. 

Ninh helps the reader to perceive and understand war as being all conquering by comparing it to love. In addition to this, Ninh shows war’s ability to taint love and in this way, defeat the human capacity for love. We see Kien stumble through various relationships in his life, both pre-war and post-war. The most significant relationship being with Phuong, his first childhood love.

Ninh’s depiction of love during the war is powerfully moving. However in the frequent references to the past and its portrayal, he is able to show the readers that love and the importance of the past acts as a sort of asylum in times of despair such as this war. If Kien had lived a normal life, Kien might have been able to forget Phuong and move on, dismissing her as a childhood lover. Unfortunately, the war and his harsh life destroyed this possibility symbolizing her beauty as ‘lost opportunities’. However Kien’s love for Phuong still lives on, in his past. In this way, contrastingly, Ninh shows how love might perhaps be able to triumph over war after all.

Throughout the novel, Kien and the Vietnamese people are constantly displaced from their normal lives and are forced into settings that are both familiar and alien. Although young people during that time had aspirations of raising families, going to college and other dreams pertaining to a normal life. However, Ninh illustrates that such dreams and desires are unattainable during Vietnam War as the everyday fighting between the North and South had altered the everyday lives of the Vietnamese people.

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The Vietnam War forces Kien down a completely different path so much that he finds it impossible to return to the person he was before the war. The war not only affects the solider but also the citizen as well. Phuong’s brutal rape by the people who were supposed to be on her side pushed her into a life filled with regret, pain, sorrow and shaped by the lack of love. In addition to her current hardships, she becomes distant from Kien and finds herself incapable of returning to the relationship that they once had.

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