O’Brien’s Symbolism In The Stockings

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O’Brien’s symbolism in the story, “Stockings,” exposes the idea that the soldier’s emotional burdens are emphasized by their physical burden. Because of his magnetism towards sentimentality, Dobbins carries a pair of stockings belonging to his beloved girlfriend back home. These stockings are a physical load that accentuate his heavy emotional load that he bears. Dobbins uses these stockings “like body armor” as he believes they “kept him safe” throughout the raging war (118).

In giving these stockings the role of protection, O’Brien emphasizes that the object truly symbolizes the soldier’s emotional burden of craving comfort while far away from home and all that he once knew. Along with this longing for comfort, O’Brien also gives these stockings the representation of Dobbins’ longing for love. When breathing in the scent of the stockings, they not only provide Dobbins with a sense of protection and comfort, but he “liked the memories this transpired” (117).

These memories are a constant reminder of his deep longing for love which is a profound emotional burden he carries with him throughout the entire war. Jimmy Cross—madly in love with a woman named Martha from back home—is so transfixed on his faraway love in the midst of war that he becomes greatly distracted just before one of his men, (Ted Lavender), is killed. He bears the burden of longing so greatly that his thoughts become deluded. O’Brien uses the symbol of a physical burden to emphasize the true emotional burden of the longing for love and comfort that was carried by soldiers which provides an understanding of emotional burdens beared by the soldiers during the war.

O’Brien’s utilization of anaphora and cumulative sentences also provides the understanding of the soldier’s emotional burden of grief. Grief–a heavy and unavoidable load that all soldiers carry– is a burden that remains forever. During the war, those who fight have incredible camaraderie with their fellow soldiers, and in the event that one of their men is killed, everlasting grief is inevitable. Though they experience grief when they lose a friend or a member of their unit, soldier’s also grieve the loss of their previous selves before the war. When O’Brien’s closest friend with whom he went into battle with was killed, his thoughts were brought back to him frequently, especially in the story, “In the Field,” when he visited the location where his best friend was killed. As he’s remembering all that this place took away from him he thinks, “My best friend. My pride. My belief in myself as a man of some small dignity and courage” (184). The use of anaphora–the repetition of the word “my” at the beginning of each sentence–provides an inside look at his thoughts as he repeats all that he has lost physically and within himself.

Guilt and regret, two very evident emotional burdens carried by soldiers in the war, are understood with O’Brien’s use of repetition and telegraphic sentences. Much of the guilt that soldiers endure comes from the deaths of their fellow men. Soldiers are always found blaming themselves for the loss of another soldier. Following Ted Lavender’s death, Jimmy Cross blamed himself because of his preoccupied mind during the death of this soldier.

His mind was so focused on the woman he was in love with that this was all that he was thinking about during the death of Ted Lavender and he forever beared the weight of his death, blaming himself for it. Immediately after the loss of Ted Lavender, Cross burned his photos of the woman he loved though he recognized that “it was only a gesture” because “Lavender was dead. You couldn’t burn the blame” (23).

The use of these telegraphic sentences help to portray the serious nature of the situation, and how he is placing clear cut blame on himself immediately. O’Brien himself carries the heavy burden of guilt after he kills a man for the first time during the war. He is in complete shock for a long period of time and analyzes the body without speaking, but while narrating his thoughts. In many different stories such as, “The Man I Killed” and “Ambush,” the repeatedly describes the man’s eyes.

Each time he goes into this description he repeats that he had “One eye shut, his other eye a huge star-shaped hole” (124,126,130,133). The repetition shows O’Brien’s forever guilt he carries with him because his thoughts constantly race back to this in depth description of the man that he killed. In providing the understanding of the burden of guilt felt by soldiers in the war, we can carry these burdens along with them as a part of our past.


Cite this paper

O’Brien’s Symbolism In The Stockings. (2020, Sep 21). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/obriens-symbolism-in-the-stockings/

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