Symbolism In Speaking Of Courage Essay

1286 Words 6 Pages
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can become a harrowing mental illness that serves as an obstacle to the future, causing its victims to relive their trauma time and time again. In Tim O’Brien’s “Speaking of Courage,” the cyclical nature of PTSD is embodied in symbolism that is used throughout the text to portray Norman’s constant struggle to reconnect with society after serving in the Vietnam War. Norman’s story of isolation demonstrates a universal struggle of war veterans in their quest to reintegrate with the society they fought so hard to protect; this is an especially important message for author and veteran O’Brien to express, as the text was published when PTSD was first professionally recognised as a mental illness. As such, the …show more content…
The small-town mentality of Norman’s hometown proves to be detrimental to his journey for healing, as he is shamed and ostracised for the way in which he served his country. Like many other middle-American towns, Norman’s home retains a strong sense of patriotism. From the white picket fences to the perfect ‘nuclear families,’ these civilians are proud of the image of their lives and country as a whole. Thus, these same civilians who fight for the victory of their country work to earn reputations as heroes, whose stories of bravery are to be revered throughout history. On the other hand, veterans are exiled and seemingly punished by this same society upon defeat, much like the veterans who saw America’s loss in the Vietnam War. After having to commit horrendous atrocities that establish life-long trauma, many of these veterans already antagonise themselves for what they have done for the sake of their country. One of the ways that PTSD takes hold of the human …show more content…
One of these people was Norman’s father, who Norman clearly saw as a role model since he was a fellow veteran. Because of this common experience, Norman imagined situations where he would proudly talk about the medals he earned in the Vietnam War, because his father would be one of the very few who would understand. In one of Norman’s imagined interactions, he expresses to his father how close he was to earning the Silver Star, which was a prestigious medal rewarding incredible bravery. In the present day, the guilt still consumes Norman that he was unsuccessful in saving his ally Kiowa, hence falling short of the criteria. Nevertheless, Norman’s father reassures him, saying “You’ve already got seven medals,” and “... you’ve got courage.” Not only did Norman feel like he failed himself and the fallen Kiowa, but he felt like a disgrace to his father for falling short of the award. Nevertheless, Norman still wishes that his father would offer him praise for the efforts he invested and acknowledge the pain he endured during his service. This interaction that Norman envisions with his father only further demonstrates his desire to be understood by someone who can relate to his experiences, and can therefore provide the reassurance and connection he craved. Therefore, Norman’s fantasized

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