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All works of literature show some sort of conflict that contributes to the theme of the writings. In the story The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien and the poem Do not Go Gentle in the Night by Dylan Thomas, the authors focus on one’s self-awareness and the way different circumstances give one a changed outlook or value in life. Both authors use literary techniques to show that the conflicts their works demonstrate are common for all people, especially for the reader. The central conflict of the researched texts is the internal one, which takes place inside an individual, and such detail helps to make the reader feel its actuality and closeness to his or her personal life.
Both The Things They Carried and Do not Go Gentle in the Night show a conflict of individual versus self. Although the writings show the same conflict, they show it in very different ways. In The Things They Carried, the main character Lieutenant Cross has an internal conflict because he has left his love Martha back home and he has her on his mind constantly, keeping him from doing his job. The struggle ultimately contributes to his inability to focus on the war and take care of his troops. The problem concerns Cross’ conflict between his personal preferences and responsibilities (O’Brien, 1990). The author of Do not Go Gentle in the Night shows the conflict of individual versus self in a different way. Thomas laminates the ultimate outcome of everyone's life, death. He shows the internal conflict that men have with accepting death and encourages people not to die without going out, kicking in, screaming, and fighting for their lives (Thomas, 1971). The most important thing in the poem is that death is common for all people, and the author underlines the fact in each stanza. The result is that the reader is feeling of the poem’s actuality and universality. The death is only one of many possible interpretations, but the real meaning of Thomas’s poem is the proclamation not to give up until the farthest end.
Thus, the main common features of the conflicts in The Things They Carried and Do not go Gentle in the Night concern the universal character of such struggles. Both authors use different literary techniques to show that everyone can have the same internal problem sometime, and this detail makes both works always actual and exciting. The main difference between the conflicts described concerns the cause of the internal contradiction. For example, Cross has to choose between his duties and his feelings; in other words, the society wants Cross to make a sacrifice for the common sake (O’Brien, 1990). In contrast, Do not Go Gentle in the Night tells nothing about either the responsibility or the society. The main attention is dedicated to the personal feelings of people, who face some difficult situation and want to give up. There is no appellation to social responsibility or any duties, but the author asks his reader to “not go gentle in that night” (Thomas, 1971) just because the night will come anyway, and it is better to stay for a while in the beauty of sunlight before the end. Thomas shows through his poem that there is no hope to avoid the end, and thus he states that every individual should try to push the inevitable end to the future as far as possible instead of giving up without any struggle.
The differences between the texts determine the literary techniques the authors used. Thus, it is possible to underline extended metaphor, symbolism and apostrophe as the main literary techniques of Do not Go Gentle in the Night”; while The Things They Carried employs metaphor, symbolism and verisimilitude. Through the realization of the literary techniques within the text, both authors achieve the effect of universal internal conflict.
Literary Techniques in Do Not Go Gentle in the Night
The researched poem includes three literary techniques important through the context of the poem’s conflict. They include extended metaphor, symbolism and apostrophe. The first one is the extended metaphor, which involves the whole text based on the metaphorical representation of the end (loss, death, passivity etc.) as night and darkness, and the action (life, success etc.) as day and light. Thus, the author achieves two important goals: on the one hand, he shows the conflict of the poem as the natural inevitable process just like changing of day by night. On the other hand, the metaphor that concerns such common process as changing of day by night underlines the character of the conflict. In other way, the author tries to say through the metaphor that, despite night is as natural as day is, there is no reason to accept it: “though wise men at their end know dark is right… they do not go gentle into that good night” (Thomas, 1971).
Another interesting literary technique used in the text is symbolism that includes the symbol of blind eyes of old men in its connection with the metaphorical meaning of day and night in the poem. The blindness symbolizes the inability to see the daylight. Thus, through the symbol of an old man, who becomes blind, Thomas shows a man, who passes the line between life and death. While life and light are equal, one has to preserve his eyes to survive as an active individual: “Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay” (Thomas, 1971). Through the symbol, the conflict of the poem achieves its human application because daylight from the metaphor has its meaning only for people who can see the light.
Finally, the author uses apostrophe throughout the whole poem, and in such a way, he makes every reader feel a personal appeal: “do not go gentle into that good night” (Thomas, 1971). Thus, the common character of the internal conflict becomes close to the reader, who subconsciously interprets the poem not just as some story about abstract situation, but as an advice and proclamation for everyone who has the same internal conflict as described.
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Literary Techniques in The Things They Carried
In The Things They Carried, the author uses metaphor, symbolism and verisimilitude to underline and express the specifics of the conflict mentioned. Thus, the title of the novel is an extended metaphor, which includes real “things” the main characters “carried”, and their personal feelings, problems etc. (O’Brien, 1990). Jimmy Cross carried compass and maps – the things that symbolized his great responsibility toward his troops (O’Brien, 1990). At the same time, compass and maps take some part of responsibility from the leader, because the devices show the way and he does not think about it all the time. The same situation applies to Cross. On the one hand, he understands that all soldiers depend on him, but on the other hand, he blindly obeys the orders instead of realizing some creativity to achieve better results. The metaphorical things Cross carried are social responsibility and personal feelings to Martha (O’Brien 1990). Thus, the metaphor helps to understand the internal conflict of Cross.
The symbolism in the context concerns the names of Cross and Martha that have Biblical meanings. Thus, Cross means the sacrifice for the common sake (like the sacrifice of Jesus Christ), and Martha, who is the main obstacle on the “sacrificial” way of Cross, means the world of everyday troubles without any service for the highest goal. The woman’s name is the symbol from the evangelical episode when Christ visited Mary and Martha, and the second one was “worried and upset about many things” except the teaching of Christ (Luke 10:38-42 New International Version). Thus, the internal conflict of Cross achieves a symbolical interpretation.
The style O’Brien uses in the novel is verisimilitude: the fiction looks like a story about real people. For such purpose, the author uses his own name for the main protagonist to pretend that the book is his memoire. It has very important meaning for the conflict in the novel, because the readers understand it as something very real and the conflict becomes close for them. Therefore, the author achieves the effect of the conflict’s common character.
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Similarities and Differences
Thus, the conflicts of both texts have some differences and common features. For Thomas, the conflict of his poem has the central position. There is one clear purpose of Do not Go Gentle in the Night, which is to demonstrate the internal conflict of a person who wants to give up, but has to stay alive and active. Contrary, The Things They Carried includes many themes and has a few clear purposes, so the researched conflict does not possess the central place in it. Jimmy Cross is one of the main characters, while “not go gentle in the night” is a proclamation addressed to the reader, and there is no character at all. Besides, both works achieve the same result though different ways because Thomas creates the situation of intimacy with the reader through apostrophes, but O’Brien makes his novel real through verisimilitude. The other literary techniques the authors use are the same, and the representation of the conflict comes similarly. As for the resolution of the conflicts, there is a difference, which depends on the purpose of each text. Thus, Cross in The Things They Carried sacrifices his personal love for the sake of his troops; but the conflict of Do not Go Gentle in the Night has no resolution because death is inevitable. The feature determines the main difference between the represented internal conflicts.