You will be reading “Sonny’s Blues” this weekend and continuing to use Tuan’s notions about “intimate experiences” of place to discuss the significance of specific scenes in Baldwin’s story and the themes of the story as a whole. As I have written on the revised assignment schedule, you are not required to post a blog next week as we are not meeting on Thursday and as I expect that you will also be working hard on your second papers, taking into account both my comments and those of your peers. So, in lieu of that post, you might write slightly more developed responses to your classmates’ posts during this round of featured blogs: What connections have the authors made that are successful? How else might they use the idea of “intimate experiences of place” to make sense of the “The Things They Carried”? (particularly, how do such experiences inform the style, tone, or theme of the story?) If these writers were going to compare how “intimate experiences of place” are treated in “The Things They Carried” and in “Sonny’s Blues,” what types of comparisons might they draw?
Post #1: “The Things They Carried”
Throughout life one may hold on or carry something that has great meaning to them. In the short story “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, the main characters were U.S. soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War. Throughout the story we see what they carry with them and why they choose to carry that particular item. Tuan’s chapter titled “Intimate Experiences of Place”, we learn about intimate experiences and attachments. Both Tuan’s chapter and the short story by O’Brien relate with each other because attachment and intimatcy is shown.
In the short story “The Things They Carried”, the main character is First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross. Cross is in charge of his squad and throughout the main part of the story instead of concentrating on his men he wonders about a girl back home who he is madly in love with. The girl back home whose name is Martha, does not share the same feelings towards him but that does not make him stop thinking about her. During the story we learn why some of the soldiers carry a particular item or weapon with them. Many carry different types of guns with them for protection. Others carried photographs to remind them of their loved ones. Lieutenant Cross carries a pebble that Martha sent him through a letter. Once one of his men is killed however, Cross becomes overwhelmed with this sense of guilt that it was because of him that this soldier died. To get his mind back on the war and his men he burns all the letters and photographs from Martha. Instead of carrying the pebble with him, he now carries a sense of guilt. He believes that because of his unwillingness to pay attention to his squad Ted Lavender was killed.
In Tuan’s chapter “Intimate Experiences of Place” we learn about attachment and why certain types of spaces are meaningful to us. We also learn about the relationship between a child and a parent. Tuan states “to the young child the parent is his primary “place.” (Tuan 138). The child depends on the mother or father for almost everything. Without the mother or father the child would not be able to survive because who would then feed and nurture them. We also learn that for many the “home” is where most intimate experiences happen. The home is where we live with the people closest to us. The home is our shelter and in it we sleep, eat and become close to the others living with us.
In both Tuan’s chapter and the short story “The Things They Carried”, an attachment to something or someone is discussed. In Tuan’s chapter we learn that during the early stages of childhood the child is attached to the parents. Only as we get older this attachment with the parents fades away. As we get older we become more independent and therefore we depend less on our parents. As a child when we are hungry we depend on the parents to feed us. As we get older we go out on our own to get food when we are hungry. In the short story the soldiers felt attached to different materials that made them feel safe or happy. Many of them carried different weapons for safety and others carried materials that reminded them of home. From the two literature pieces the reader can learn that without a sense of attachment one can feel lost and unworthy.
Post #2: “The Things They Carried”
“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien deals with a group of soldiers during the Vietnam War and the objects they “hump” everyday, particularly First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross. The men carry a variety of military items, however they also carry personal items which serve as reminders of what they left behind. Jimmy Cross carries letters, photographs, and keepsakes from his true love, Martha. These trinkets carry him into her world, along the Jersey Shore to where he can picture walking side by side by the water. Lieutenant Cross is constantly distracted by daydreams of Martha. In Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, Tuan notes that “intimate experiences lie buried in our innermost being so that not only do we lack the words to give them form but often we are not even aware of them” (Tuan 136). Lieutenant Cross’ fantasies of Martha overwhelm him to the point of taking him away from his duties, resulting in the death of one of his soldiers. In an attempt to redeem himself, he burns his memories of Martha. However, his thoughts are still with her. Tuan states that “for most people possessions and ideas are important, but other human beings remain the focus of value and the source of meaning” (Tuan 138). In essence, this means that while objects and structures may make a place, it is the people we associate them with that make it an intimate place and one we can actually call home. Jimmy Cross, being so attached to Martha, feels completely empty and alone in his current environment, craving only to be with her and therefore abandoning his responsibilities as First Lieutenant.