Luka Mair - 22/1/2019
The Sorrow of War, written by Bao Ninh, is an emphatic portrayal of the Vietnam
War of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The outset passage of the novel occurs in the past
and chronicles Kien’s experiences in the Missing In Action body-collecting team
following its culmination, and the subsequent emptiness man has developed from
Bao Ninh expresses a tone of apathy as a result of torment in order to convey the
mental and emotional indifference of war.
First of all, Ninh uses the motif of the passing stream and weather in order to convey
a tone of torment that highlights the mental and emotional suffering of war. He
begins with the detail that the “night rains are relentless” which establishes a sense
of the continuous pressure that man experiences. It also thus indicates that the
mental state of one during wartime is that of emotional vulnerability. The detail of
“September and October drag by” also signifies the mental state of man faced with
pain, progressing slowly. Additionally, he also remarks that a “desperate complaint”
was expressed by the passing stream, which is symbolical for the torment that has
subsequently afflicted one. Indeed, the diction of “desperate” implies that man is
beginning to feel disheartened and express despair, showing loss of all hope.
Consequently, Ninh affirms that the stream “moans”, with this diction choice
intensifying the extreme suffering that man is undergoing, making them vulnerable to
mental emptiness. Furthermore, he ultimately describes the sounds of the passing
stream as “eerie” that further exhibits the progressing mental and emotional state of
man afflicted with torment, with this diction conveying a feeling of trauma.
Subsequently, Ninh describes that the atmosphere surrounding the river has “long
moist, chilly fingers, sliding in and around the hammock”, with this description putting
emphasis on the distress man faces, suggesting that death is closing in. Thus, Ninh
affirms that the war has tormented humanity, making them emotionally and mentally
Subsequently, Ninh uses the motif of the Jungle in order to exhibit the resulting
apathy and decay that man has developed due to torment. In the outset of the
passage, he refers to the Jungle as being haunted by “Screaming Souls” (1) which
conveys the spiritual suffering that has been afflicted due to man’s sinfulness during
wartime. Moreover, this is underlined by the diction choice of ‘screaming’ which
emphasizes intense piercing cries and expresses extreme emotion and pain,
highlighting the distressing mental and emotional torment that affected psyches.
Also, Ninh describes the Jungle as being “muddy as all hell” (1), with this simile
placing further emphasize on the emotional and mental torment of man. Indeed, Ninh
has also included imagery of hell in order to represent the Jungle as being a
condemned spiritual realm of evil and suffering for man. Consequently, due to this
condemned torment, Ninh conveys through...