Bella Mezzaroba The Self and the Changing World

Analytical Essay:

Human’s have a variety of coping mechanisms that allow them to continue living after something life changing has happened. It’s human nature to survive, so therefore, humans must find ways to keep living when life becomes difficult to handle. In order to deal with tragedy, loss, or difficult times, humans detach themselves from the situation at hand in order to cope. Different personality types detach themselves differently but overall, people dehumanize suffering in order to get through it.

In  Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, the men have rituals that they carry out when they come across a dead Vietnamese soldier. The men do things like shake hands with the dead, toast the dead, and speak to the dead as if they were as alive as they. In this specific example, O’Brien’s talking about the way the men toast to a dead man they found. “It was more than mockery. There was a formality to it, like a funeral without sadness.” Most of the men aren’t rude about death. However, by removing the sadness from the atmosphere of death, they’re not associating their own emotions with the situation. Removing sadness from the equation removes the sense of attachment to the circumstances. By acting as if death is a game, the men not only separate themselves from the grief, but separate themselves from the guilt of taking another man’s life.   

O’Brien, in one of his interviews, says, “The one way to psychologically endure it all is to escape in your head.” O’Brien’s speaking about retreating into his imagination to mentally survive a hardship such as war. That was his specific way of detaching. It was also a way he expressed through the actions of many of the soldiers in his story. O’Brien writes a character named Kiowa, a native american young man who hasn’t let the war change his outlook on life. By staying true to his pre-war self, Kiowa lives in an illusion. He’s escaping into his mind, into what he was before he was surrounded by death and destruction in Vietnam. By refusing to change who he is, Kiowa is building a mental wall that keeps the war from destroying him psychologically.

In The Things They Carried, there is a chapter titled, The Man I Killed. The entire chapter is describing a man O’Brien shot and the backstory he imagined for the man.  O’Brien, when describing what the man looked like after he shot him, says “...and his other eye was a star-shaped hole.” This phrase, “star shaped hole” is used throughout the not only the rest of the chapter but the rest of the book. The repetition gives a sense of importance to the phrase. By saying it often, O’Brien is showing how difficult it is to separate your life from a death you caused

Later on, in the last chapter of The Things They Carried, O’Brien describes his first experience with death. His childhood love, a girl named Linda, died of cancer when she was nine. O’Brien refuses to accept she’s dead so he begins to see her in his imagination, so that she’ll never really be gone. “And at night time, I’d slide into bed knowing that Linda would be there waiting for me.” This is a direct example of coping with death through denial and detachment. The young O’Brien imagines his childhood love as alive even though she is very much dead because he can’t cope with reality. These coping mechanisms of separating oneself from reality don’t only apply to dire circumstances such as war. These coping strategies are used for everyday tragedies, such as the death of Linda.

These psychological coping mechanisms aren’t only relevant to soldiers, veterans or enlistees. These detachment methods are used, sometimes unknowingly, in everyday tragedies like death of a family member or loss of a job. Even children will employ these methods when faced with school bullies, ostracization or, more serious, parental abuse. Everyone will handle their grief differently but in general, humans will detach themselves and dehumanize their suffering in order to get through it.

Works Cited for Analytical Essay:

O'Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Print.

"In the Name of Love." In the Name of Love. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.

Narrative Essay:

I attended Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry for 10 years. I know, it’s a little longer than most students spend at Hogwarts but I was a special case. Due to having to live a double life, as a wizard and a muggle. I started off at Hogwarts a lot younger than most, around the age of 4. Ironically enough, it was the same year my mom enrolled me in Pre-K at Epiphany of Our Lord Catholic Grade School, but between you and me that was more of a side gig. My real focus was on spells and magic, I never cared much for storytime or coloring books. I did a good job of keeping my magic life separate from my muggle life. I hid my Hogwarts school books with Cloaking Charms, I practiced my Hovering Charms while simultaneously doing my muggle homework with a levitating pencil. No one expected a thing.

For years, I studied the wizarding basics. How to brew a basic potion and how to transfigure a matchstick into a needle. Sometimes, Catholic school would interfere with my studies. Like in 3rd grade, when the teacher told me I was too young to be reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, a required reading at Hogwarts. I explained to her that I must read it, as Professor Binns had assigned it as homework, due the following week. I suppose she didn’t appreciate that I was putting my magical studies before her class and she forbade me from reading it again. I began having to do my Hogwarts homework in secret at home, instead of in Catholic school where I usually did it.

What these Catholic School folks didn’t understand is, I put their school secondary to Hogwarts. I only went to Epiphany because those gosh darn muggles required all children to attend their schools. I didn’t see why I needed math to solve problems when I could brew a perfectly good potion or cast a spell instead.

As I continued through my education, I continued juggling my muggle work and my wizarding work rather successfully. Around 5th grade, however, things became more complicated. I loved Hogwarts, not only because the coursework was so exciting, but because everyone was my friend there. Whether someone was Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, or Hufflepuff, I was friends with them. In the muggle world, though, things were a little different. In 5th grade, all the other kids started having big birthday parties or weekend get togethers. I was rarely invited. I was so busy at Hogwarts though, I probably wouldn’t have found the time anyway. People started whispering about me being friendless. Obviously, I wasn’t, I had so many friends at Hogwarts, more than I could count! But... I couldn’t tell the muggles about that. It’s all part of the Wizarding Decree of Secrecy.

In time, I began to learn more complicated magic. I was succeeding in Hogwarts in ways unimaginable. I received 8 O.W.Ls, Ordinary Wizarding Levels, a type of wizarding certification that allowed me to further my education in my chosen fields of magic. I was Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team and was leading my team toward the Quidditch Cup for the third year in a row. Things were really working out for me in Hogwarts.

In the muggle world, however, I faced more challenges. Teachers were getting aggravated with me, claiming I wasn’t paying enough attention in their classes. If I could only have explained the situation to them but I had learned my lesson in 3rd grade. If only I could have mastered that Replicating Charm, I could have been in two places at once! Alas, it seemed I was doomed to this double life.

Around my 9th year at Hogwarts and my 7th year at muggle school, everything became so hectic that my two lives began to merge. How I longed for simpler days of Wingardium Leviosa and times tables! I started getting confused. I couldn’t tell the difference between my American History textbook and my copy of A History of Magic. I was lagging behind at Hogwarts and my title of Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team was revoked. I started to loose my friends, I started to forget what they even looked like. My memories were fleeting and far and few between. I forgot my schedule, my spells, charms, hexes, potion recipes, and even the hallways of Hogwarts.

I had no trouble recalling my math homework or when the next Religion test was. I knew the names of everyone in my class and how to navigate the halls. I no longer swished and flicked my pencils, practicing the motions for spellcasting, because I no longer remembered how to cast a spell. I was becoming a muggle.

I left Catholic School the same day I should have graduated Hogwarts. It’s funny how things change. I graduated from the muggle school the way I meant to have graduated Hogwarts; top marks and a future lying ahead of me. I left Hogwarts though, a few months prior. No self respecting witch forgets how to perform basic spells, as I had. After ten great years, I lost my imagination. I lost my Hogwarts and I lost my magic. I had to face reality.

Comments (5)

Ilker Erkut (Student 2016)
Ilker Erkut

I learned about her as a kid and how she was so connected to a story to the point where she did not like her life enough. It is really interesting to feel so passionately about a story.

Dillon Hershey (Student 2016)
Dillon Hershey

I was scrolling and Hogwarts jumped out at me and I was confused. But now I'm not. This is so perfect and it makes so much sense in connecting the analytical to the personal. Also this is a perfect narrative to compare to Tim O'Brien's writing. I will probably steal your imaginative ways of writing for my own writing.

Raz Reed (Student 2016)
Raz Reed
  1. Quidditch!
  2. I learned that Bella was once a witch but not anymore :(
  3. Bella's essay really proved her thesis, more than most of the other essays I've read. The part where O'Brien pretends he's still a child with Linda is a great example of a coping mechanism.
Jesse Shuter (Student 2016)
Jesse Shuter
  1. The Narrative essay is what grabbed me here, the entire premise of dealing with a "double life" was very creative and interesting to read. It was cool how it was set up and how things came together in the end.
  2. I learned that Bella likes Harry Potter a little bit too much and this got in the way of her studies and social activities because she wanted to be a wizard.
  3. I liked how you incorporated the lesson on conclusions from class where you relate to a larger group of people when you said, "These psychological coping mechanisms aren’t only relevant to soldiers, veterans or enlistees. These detachment methods are used, sometimes unknowingly, in everyday tragedies like death of a family member or loss of a job.". I will continue to try and incorporate this into my own writing.
Mia Weathers-Fowler (Student 2016)
Mia Weathers-Fowler

Dude. I almost cried like you really touched my heart. I was grabbed in this essay because I freaking love the Harry Potter books and I read them in elementary school and got the same comments from teachers. So I relate to your story on a real level. I like that you kept Hogwarts all the way through, so at the end it really did feel like there was magic being lost.