Ling AP Lit. and Comp. 2010-11 discussion

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What is Truth? > Numbers

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message 1: by Park.chunsoo (last edited Dec 05, 2010 01:08PM) (new)

Park.chunsoo | 11 comments This is a side-comment about something I noticed: the frequent usage of numbers in the novel. In fact, numbers appear on almost every page, to the point it seems unnecessarily cluttered. When I noticed the superfluous use of numbers, I realized that some numbers, such as 17, are repeated in various chapters throughout the novel. And I remembered novels such as the Scarlet Letter, in which the author purposefully repeated certain numbers (the number 7 was used at least 50 times).

Does anyone else agree that O'Brien purposefully used these numbers? And if so, why?


message 2: by Alon (new)

Alon Mazori | 23 comments Perhaps not the number 17, but I have also found that O'Brien repeatedly tells the reader that he is 43 years old and a writer of war stories. Perhaps O'Briend wishes to continually emphasize the long-term mental effects of war?


message 3: by Randie (new)

Randie (randiead) | 22 comments I think the significance of numbers in TTTC is to give a material definition to something much deeper. In the beginning, O'Brien lists the weight of all of the war equipment the men carry in order to show all of all the baggage they have. Of course, this physical baggage is symbolic of the emotional baggage the war has brought all of the men, and putting a superficial number on it is O'Brien's way of relating the heaviness to his readers.


message 4: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 20 comments I agree with Randie. I think this ties into the whole idae we discussed as a class, this is a story true of war. By using all this mechanical data and all these statistics, O'Brien sends off a feeling of certainty, a feeling of truth. The point of doing this is to give his stories more weight, to make them feel more true, so that his readers will take away the messages and morals of the story as if they were factually true. To answer Alon's question, I don't think O'Brien wants to continually emphasize the long-term mental effects of war. I think he simply wants to pay close attention to the detail as he does throughout the story and send a message of undoubted certainty.


message 5: by Catie (new)

Catie Cooper | 20 comments I agree with Rachel and Randie. The numbers are just more details that O'Brien uses to make his stories seem more real. Alon, I think the reason why he talks about how he is 43 years old is also to make the story seem real. It makes his character real because it gives you a part of his description. If you ran in to Tim O'Brien on the street, he would be a 43 year old man.


message 6: by Grace (new)

Grace | 11 comments I noticed the emphasis on numbers as well as I made my way through the novel and came to the same conclusion as Catie, Rachel, and Randie did. By using such specific detail, the stories seem more tangible to the reader. We can feel the weight of the things they had to carry, and we can picture the size of every object. The story is told in such a way that the lines between fact and fiction are intentionally blurred, and adding specific numbers and weights to everything helps to accomplish this.


message 7: by Alon (new)

Alon Mazori | 23 comments I see what everyone is saying, and although I agree that the physical aspect of the numbers undoubtedly makes the stories more tangible to the reader, I also believe that they have a mental component as well. Why else would O’Brien comment in "How to Tell a True War Story" that "the point doesn't hit you until twenty years later, in your sleep, and you wake up and shake your wife and start telling the story to her, except when you get to the end you've forgotten the point again?"


message 8: by Ada (new)

Ada L | 22 comments This might be a little far-fetched but perhaps the repetition of some seemingly random numbers, like 7 and 17, are sort of a superstitious sign? Throughout the book, we see a lot of signs of superstition from the soldiers. For example, Henry Dobbins always wears his girlfriend's stockings around his neck, even after she breaks up with him because he deems it "good luck." Maybe the repetition and obsession with some numbers just shows O'Brien's supersticion? (Though I agree with Alon that when he says "twenty years later" it's just to make a point about the passing of time)


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