photo credit to Alice Maher @ alicemaher.com
Being completely honest, it was very difficult for me to come up with an idea for this literary narrative. I was never a fan of reading or writing in school. I believe that it was partly because my teachers never made reading or writing fun for us; it was always looked as a “required assignment,” rather than a personal growth experience. I never felt like I was pouring my ideas and feelings into my writing, therefore I never developed a truly personal piece. Although, if I had to pick my favorite reading/writing assignment throughout all of high school, it would be about the book, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.
I suppose my english classes freshman and sophomore year were a complete waste of time if I’m only going to remember my junior year reading assignments, but this was undoubtedly my most memorable reading experience in high school. This book heavily resonated with me for several reasons; however, there are two that I feel are more relevant than the others. First, it was a war story, and I am a sucker for war stories because of the amount of gruesome detail and description that can go into writing a meaningful war story. Second, which is a result of the first reason, is because I was able to see myself in the story. The one ability that I have acquired over the years of reading books is that I am able to visualize the story well. I give the characters their own facial features and expressions in my head to go along with the plot. Their behavior, the facial expressions they make, and their likes and dislikes all play a role in the way that I picture them in the book. I do believe that if it weren’t for this ability, I would not have been able to enjoy most of the books I have read throughout my life. Now, I’m sure other people can do this as well, but I like to pride myself on the fact that I believe I can do it better, for I am a very visual learner. There was one scene that I was able to visualize more than the rest due to the intensity of the scene in the book and the details that described each of the characters’ actions. The chapter was titled “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”. At the beginning of the chapter, it seemed like it was going to turn out to be a normal sequence of events, similar to the ones prior to it; however, as I continued to read, the description and the heaviness increased significantly. One scene that I will never forget was when the “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong,” Mary Anne, was described as losing her innocence. She is illustrated to be wearing a pink sweater and culottes, but her eyes are emotionless and changed from sky blue to jungle green. She is surrounded by nothing but skeletons and various bones and is wearing a necklace which linked numerous human tongues. The imagery used in this scene allowed me to envision myself to be standing right there next to the protagonist who is looking at her in astonishment and fear. It’s as if I was in Vietnam, seeing the same things he was, smelling the same stench, surrounded by the same silence of the jungle around him, and feeling the same emotions as he was: detachment and loss.
Comparatively, there was not a single scene in the rest of the novel that provided the same sensory details and made me feel like I was part of the story. However, from this scene, in every book that I have read since then, I have tried my best to relate to the text as much as I did with that one from The Things They Carried. It helps me appreciate the plot, characters, and significance of the book.
Being able to envision myself in the books that I read has made writing much easier and has allowed for my ideas to flow easier as well. If I can imagine myself being in the same situations as the characters, then I can understand the emotions and the ideas that those characters are feeling as well. This acquired ability of mine has heightened in strength as I have grown older and read more complex texts. I think it will continue to work towards my advantage when both reading and writing about future books and texts.