The Gift in Wartime by Tran MongTu: Summary
About The Poem
This heart-touching poem "The Gift in Wartime" has been composed by a Vietnamese poet named Tran Mong Tu. This poem has presented the inhuman picture of war. The title of the poem itself is a satire for all those people who give more preference to wars rather than their lives. Here, the speaker as a widow has put forward the painful feelings of her lonely life in this poem after losing her lovable husband in the terrible war between America and Vietnam.
Here, we find her talking to an absent person (husband) relating him about the bad aspects of the inhuman war which has invited a dark future for her. The speaker is seen making her lovable person realize the inhumanity and cruelty of war and even the sorrows of her lonely life after his death. She wants to pass on a serious lesson to all her readers that war never provides happiness to others but only snatches the happiness of others and provides gifts as death, blood, pains, loss, sorrow etc.
The Gift in Wartime by Tran Mong Tu There are altogether seven different stanzas here in this poem. The main theme of this poem is the inhuman aspects of war and its effects on humans. The speaker has presented a terrible picture of war that has snatched all the happiness of her life. In the very first stanza, the speaker is offering roses to be buried in the new grave of her lovable person (her husband who is no more). The speaker wants to offer her wedding gown to cover his tomb which is still green with grass. Here, in the first stanza, we find the speaker's cl os e deep love feelings for her lovable person. She offers roses and her wedding gown to him to present her deep love and affection for him. In the second stanza, she talks about the bravery of her lovable person and even his awards which she has still kept in his memory.
The gifts of war to his lovable person as the medals with the silver stars and the yellow pips on the badge are still shining with the pride of his bravery. But, these awards are of no use because the person who got them with bravery is no more now. In the third stanza, she relates to him about her youth days with him where she had offered her youth to him as a wife. They were in deep love in those days. Unfortunately, when she got the bad news from the officers about her lovable person's death, she also lost her youth along with the death of her dear one.
In the fourth stanza, she relates to him the inhuman picture of war and its gifts to humans. She relates to him about the blood's smell and blood of his enemy. For her, the dress of war only provides her with blood in return so that she may be moved. Here, she wants to put forward her idea that the war only invites bad results for humans. It only invites terror, pains, destructions, blood, deaths etc.
In the fifth stanza, the speaker reminds her lovable person about the clouds and cold winters which she has provided him. But, she only gets her eyes full of tears on summer days in return. Her springtime of life even becomes cold without him. The speaker shows her deep sorrows due to the lack of her lovable person. In the sixth stanza, the speaker relates to her absent lovable person about all those things which she has got from him. Due to the bad impacts of war, her lovable person has left her providing lips without a smile, arms without tenderness, eyes without sight and the body without motion. This stanza has shown the pitiable condition of the speaker's lonely life without her lovable person.
In the final stanza, the speaker apologizes to her lovable person and even promises to meet him in their next life. She says that she will hold shrapnel as a token which will help both of them to recognize each other. Here, the speaker has presented the deep meaning related to the inhuman picture of war. She wants to hold shrapnel as proof to show him the reason how this inhuman war had snatched his life and separated them. Your gift, matched. cl os e In this way, this poem has presented the very bad impacts of war on humans.
The Gift in Wartime by Tran Mong Tu This poem "The Gift in Wartime" is a nostalgic poem by a Vietnamese poet Tran Mong Tu. Here, we find her addressing an absent person and relating about the sufferings of her lonely life. She has presented the inhuman picture of war here in this poem. She has given various examples related to her offerings to her beloved and the gifts which have got through her beloved or this inhuman war. She offers various things in different stanzas to her beloved as roses, her wedding gown, youth, clouds, cold winters etc.
But, she has got various things that have added her sufferings as unused but still shining medals and badges with yellow pips, bad news, the smell of blood, tears on eyes, lonely springtime, lips with no smile, arms without tenderness, eyes without sight, body without motion etc. The speaker apologizes to her beloved and promises him to meet him in their next life along with proof that has separated them from each other. Made-in-China.com Products Made-in-China.com cl os e She promises to hold a piece of shrapnel as a token with the help of which they will recognize each other.
Before You Read
a. Have you ever experienced the death of someone close to you? If yes, how did you feel?
➨Yes, I have experienced the death of someone close to me. I felt shocked to hear about my close friend's death in a terrible bus accident at the age of thirty.
b. Is war always destructive?
➨Yes, war is always destructive. War is always against humanity. It doesn't have advantages at all. It always invites disparity and a dark future for all. It destroys each and everything.
Understanding the Text
a. Who is the speaker addressing and why can that person not hear or understand what she is saying?
➨ The speaker is addressing an absent person ( a lovable person). That person cannot hear or understand what she is saying because the person is no more.
b. What can you infer about the speaker’s feelings for the person addressed as “you”?
➨ I can infer that the speaker's feelings for the person addressed as 'you' are so deep. She thinks of him as her life. She misses him a lot. She remembers him every moment in her life. She feels her life is incomplete without him. Her deep feelings can easily be seen in the first stanza where she offers roses and her wedding gown for her lovable person's tomb.
c. What is the speaker’s attitude toward war?
➨ The speaker's attitude toward war is quite negative. She has experienced the terrible war between America and Vietnam. She has lost the most lovable person of her life due to war. Due to the lack of him, she has been experiencing pitiable lonely life. She has presented various negative aspects of the war in her poem.
d. In what ways do you think this person’s fate has affected the speaker?
➨ I think this person's fate has affected the speaker. The absent person who is mentioned here in this poem was a brave soldier who had got medals and a badge for his bravery in the war. In the war between America and Vietnam, he got killed in the bomb explosion. After his death, the speaker is experiencing his lack. She is quite sad about her lonely life. She keeps on remembering her lovable person all the time. The ill fate of the person has made her helpless, loveless and miserable.
e. What does the speaker promise at the end of the poem? Why do you think the speaker does this?
➨ At the end of the poem, the speaker promises to meet her lovable person in their next life. She wants to hold shrapnel as proof to show him the reason behind his death and their separation. According to her, it will help them to recognize each other. I think the speaker does this because her love for the absent person is so deep. She wants to love him again and again.
Reference to the Text
a. What is the theme of the poem?
➨ The theme of the poem is the inhumanity and cruelty of the war and its negative impacts on humans. War never brings happiness for others but only snatches the happiness of others. It only invites disparity and a dark future for others. Humans get extremely affected by war. War only provides gifts as death, blood, pains, loss, sorrows, destruction, downfall etc.
b. What imagery from the poem made the greatest impression on you? Why?
➨ The imagery is a literary device to represent things through the use of images. The speaker has used various images here in this poem to put forward her feelings against war. Here, we find images as roses on grave, wedding gown as a cover, a tomb with green grass, medals, badge, youth days, wardress with blood, clouds, winters, lips without a smile, arms without tenderness, eyes without sight, the body without cl os emotion, shrapnel as a token etc.
Here, the imagery from the sixth stanza made a great impression on me because here in the sixth stanza, the speaker relates to all those things which she has got from her missing lovable person. Due to the bad impacts of war, her lovable person has left her providing lips without a smile, arms without tenderness, eyes without sight and the body without motion. This stanza has shown the pitiable condition of the speaker's lonely life without her lovable person.
c. Which figurative language is used in the poem? Explain with examples.
➨ Figurative language is phrasing that goes beyond the literal meaning of words to get a message. We find the use of irony, apostrophe, anaphora, and metaphor as the figurative language here in this poem. The poet has used imageries and metaphors much. The title of this poem itself is ironic which refers to the gifts of war as pains, sorrows, losses, blood etc to humans.
Next, the poet has also used the literary device of the apostrophe, which refers to a sudden exclamatory piece of dialogue addressed to cl os e someone or something, especially absent. Here in this poem, the speaker addresses an absent person and says him about the inhuman picture of war.
Anaphora refers to the repetition of the same words at the beginning of a line. Here, the poet has used the same words at the beginning of the line as " You give me" in the second, fourth and sixth stanza. These words have been repeated thrice in the sixth stanza. Here, the poet has presented an irony relating to the gifts which the war, as well as her lovable person (a soldier), has provided her.
Finally, metaphor is a figure of speech that makes a comparison between two, unlike things that aren't literary true. Here in this poem, the poet has compared the clouds with her eyes full of tears on summer days and cold winters with her life's springtime.
d. What does the speaker “offer” in this poem? What does the person addressed as “you” give in return?
➨ The speaker offers various things in this poem to her lovable person. She offers roses, her wedding gown, her youth, clouds, cold winters cl os e etc. The person addressed as "you" gives her the medals with shining stars, badge with yellow pips, the smell of blood from wardress, lips without a smile, arms without tenderness, eyes without sight, the body without motion etc.
e. An apostrophe is a literary device in which a writer or speaker addresses an absent person or an abstract idea in such a way as if it were present and can understand. Discuss the poem in relation to apostrophe.
➨ This poem "The Gifts in Wartime" is about the inhuman picture of war and its effects on humans. Here, the speaker has perfectly made use of apostrophe where she is seen addressing an absent person. Here, she is using her convincing lines for the person who is no more. She tries her best to make him realise her deep lovable feelings for him.
From the first stanza to the last, she keeps on making the absent person realise about her presents, sacrifices, lonely feelings, helplessness, the gifts of war as medals, badges, army dress with blood, painful feelings, death, etc. She relates to him about her lonely life where she has experienced a lot of pain without him. She has even made him realise the main reason behind his death and their separation.
This poem has presented the speaker and her dialogues for the absent person in such a way if the person is listening and understanding all her words. This poem has shown the bitter reality of war on humans through the speaker's dialogues for her absent lovable person using the apostrophe.
Reference Beyond The Text
a. One way to get relief from grief is to write or talk about it. In your opinion, how might the speaker in this poem have benefitted from saying what she did? Explain.
➨ The speaker here in this poem has become successful to convey a serious message about the inhumanity of war to all her readers. War always invites a dark future for all. The victim on the battlefield isn't only the sufferer but also all those people who are closely connected with him/her.
The speaker of this poem has also become the victim of the war along with her lovable person's death. Here, the saying of the speaker-related with her acts and her sacrifices in her lonely life might have benefited her to forward her experience of war as a sufferer to all her readers. The readers have got ideas about the bad impacts of war and its long term effects on humans through her painful feelings.
Effects of War
War is a situation or a period of fighting between countries or groups of people. War generally involves the use of weapons, a military organization and soldiers. War is a situation in which a nation enforces its rights by using force. War is the bitter reality through which the downfall of humans is created. It is good for nothing. War and its effects on humans are seen in both aspects: physical and psychological.
War creates long term effects on humans. War invites a dark future for all. War never provides happiness to others but snatches the happiness of others. The victims of war always remain in fear. It snatches thousands of lives. Death, injury, sexual violence, malnutrition, illness, and disability etc are some of the most threatening physical consequences of war, while post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety are some of the psychological effects.