The Self vs. The Changing World

Analytical Essay:

Depression and anxiety are common emotions experienced by people when their world changes in a non favorable way. People develop different habits in order to cope with what they are experiencing. Sleeping is one way to cope with it. It is very common due to the fact that people attempt to have happy dreams of what their life used to be before their world changed. It provides people with a pass time to get over with their change. In the book, The Things They Carried, by Tim O'brien, people cope with the changing world by attempting to dream because then they avoid having to consciously think about their troubles and can make their own fantasy.

In the chapter “Lives of the Dead”, Tim O’brien talks about how he coped with the death of his friend Linda who died of brain cancer. After her death he slept a lot more often. This is when his mom started a conversation with him to see if he was alright. He responded, “‘Nothing. I just need sleep, that's all.’ I didn't dare tell the truth. It was embarrassing, I suppose, but it was also a precious secret, like a magic trick, where if I tried to explain it, or even talk about it, the thrill and mystery would be gone. I didn't want to lose Linda.” (244) This shows that events that cause depression are sometimes dealt with by dreaming and therefore sleeping in order to make a place where the real world changes that caused the depression is no longer there. He really believes it is a successful way of coping with it, even though he doesn’t understand how something so simple can be so joyful. The reason for dreaming as opposed to eating or some other way of coping is because while eating takes you away from what happened, it does not take you back to when that change happened, whereas dreaming does. Also, there are less adverse side effects to sleeping than to excessive eating such as weight gain and risk for heart disease and several others diseases that are life threatening which are common side effects of excessive eating.

In the chapter “On the Rainy River”, O’brien was staying at a lodge owned by Elroy Berdahl in Minnesota near the border between the United States and Canada. O’brien had sleeping problems because of his anxiety of being drafted into the Vietnam War. He was tempted into going to Canada to escape his draft order but was too scared to. “I couldn't sleep; I couldn't lie still. At night I'd toss around in bed, half awake, half dreaming, imagining how I'd sneak down to the beach and quietly push one of the old man's boats out into the river and start paddling my way toward Canada.” (50) Here is an example of a time when a character desperately tried to sleep in order to avoid their real world change. While he was not fully asleep, he even mentions the fact that when he was “half awake, half dreaming” he dreamed about doing what he was too afraid to do in real life which was going into Canada. This show that even when one cannot successfully sleep, if they are in a half dream state, they can at least experience part of what they would if they were fully asleep.

In the chapter “Enemies”, soldiers Dave Jensen and Lee Strunk got into a fight. Jensen being larger in size, was victorious and ended up breaking Strunk’s nose. After that event Strunk was always on edge at night while trying to sleep. “At night he had trouble sleeping—a skittish feeling—always on guard, hearing strange noises in the dark, imagining a grenade rolling into his foxhole or the tickle of a knife against his ear.” (63)  While he was never able to successfully go to sleep, this does show what happens when you are awake and worry about the changing world. In this case while he was awake he stressed out always thinking Jensen was waiting to kill him. His attempt at sleeping in order to dream would have proved as a good way of coping if we was able to. It is certain that him being awake made him not able to think about anything other than the possibility of Jensen killing him.

During an interview with Mars Hill Review (MHR), Tim O’brien was asked why  he thought imagining was crucial to him as a soldier and a person. He responded, “Imagination is important in a couple of ways. One way is as a psychological means of escape. If you can lose yourself in a fantasy, then you're no longer trapped in the horror of, say, Vietnam.” Dreaming is when one’s imagination is at its fullest so it would make sense that most of that imagination came from dreaming. In your dreams its much easy to escape reality because its when things seem most real but actually aren’t.

While there are many different ways to cope with the changing world dreaming is one of the most easy and common that provides escape. It gives people the ability to experience the most realistic feeling of places that isn’t real yet can mimic a person’s desire for things to be how they were before the world changed. While people cannot always controls what happens in their dreams, just the hope of them being able to experience their better past life is something for them to look forward to. Without dreaming, many people wouldn’t have something to look forward to in order for them to be in a happy place.

Works Cited for Analytical Essay:

O'Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction. New York: Broadway, 1998. Print.

Sawyer, Scott. "In the Name of Love: An Interview With Tim O'Brien." Mars Hill Review. (Links to an external site.). Winter/Spring 1996. Web. October 20 2009.

Narrative Essay:

“Nebil are you okay?” my mom would usually ask.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just tired” was my response.

Under the covers of my bed, I was in a place of comfort. I preferred to sleep facing my window, so I wouldn’t be looking at anyone who came in my room. I either stared at something in the room or out of the window before I slept. Sometimes I slept from twelve noon until 8 at night and often times much more erratic sleeping patterns.

Sleeping was my way of coping with something that happened to me, whether it be that I was a mad at my parents or friends or whether I was depressed about something. This time I slept because I was depressed about my grades in class. I used to always be stressed about my grades and thinking they had a big snowball effect on my future. I used to think that if I got a B in Math for even just one quarter my chances of getting into an Ivy League instantly dropped to nothing. Pressure from academics like that always used to get to me. I used to see a lot of my friends getting much better grades than I was, and they were worried about their own future which made me think I should be even more worried about my own. The stress from worrying about my future and classes often times required for me to sleep.

The reason I slept was because when I slept, I didn’t think about anything. I was free from the worries that encompassed me while I was awake. In my dreams I did what I normally did while not thinking about what I would have to when I woke. I guess I like that feeling of being care free or unaware. It relieves me of stress and allows me to enjoy myself. After waking up I am usually much more alive than I was before I slept. I still would keep that feeling of being carefree for a while after I woke up. That is until my friends say something about homework, projects, colleges, and SATs.

Aside from my parents, my friends started to worry about me too. At first on school nights I would usually chat with them on skype. When I went to sleep early because I was angry, stressed, or depressed, they often ask me what’s wrong. “Hey Nebil, what’s wrong?” someone usually says in school when they see my head down.

“Nothing, I’m just not feeling great. I just need some sleep.” was my usual response.

“Okay, hope you feel better?” they could tell I was lying, but it’s not like I would put much effort into it anyway.

My sleeping habits started to become unhealthy. I used to sleep in school very often. In my sophomore year, in almost every History class for the first quarter, I slept through just because I couldn’t stand some of the ignorant comments that were said from across the classroom. It was so bad that it got to the point where the teacher took me out of class and asked why I was sleeping so much. My response was the same to him as well.

My sleeping habits only got worse. I started to sleep in on weekends. Whenever my friends asked me if I  wanted to go with them some where, I would come up with some excuse and tell them that yesterday was rough I wasn’t feeling good. I got too used to dreaming as a way of escape. While initially it seemed harmless, I later realized I was desocializing myself from the world. The few times I didn’t make an excuse and went with them somewhere, I would hear them converse about funny events that I missed because I didn’t go with them the previous time. At first I made nothing of it, but later I realized I asked the question, “What are you guys talking about?” a little too often because I didn’t meet with them as often as I previously did.

I tried to stop myself from sleeping by doing something else to cope with my stress. Eating didn’t work at all because I didn’t like to eat while I was angry, stressed or depressed. While I liked exercising, I was never in the mood to do it for the same reasons I didn’t eat. In the end I just went back to sleeping and pushed the thoughts of my friends, parents, and teachers worrying about me to the back of my head.

One of my friends who I talked to often always told me not to worry about school because I was doing just fine in school. They told me that I was getting all A’s so there was really nothing to worry about. While it was nice that they did that, it was hard to take them seriously because they were doing much better than me in school and much more outside of school to have things to put on their resumé.

Since then, that friend has kept on telling me that I’m at an okay place. Ever since then, I started believing what they said more and more as believed their sincerity. To this day I still do sleep when I’m depressed but I noticed that I sleep less. It’s not because I found a different way to cope with stress, depression, and anger, but now I don’t experience those emotions as often because my friends helped take those emotions off of me. I found out that my friends have become a more important tool for me to deal with an uncomfortably changing world.

Comments (3)

Alexander Wroblewski (Student 2016)
Alexander Wroblewski

What grabbed me here was the focus on escapism and depression. I totally understand what it means to be really depressed, especially in sophomore year, and how the pressure on grades makes things even worse. Pushing emotions to the side is unhealthy though, and it can make things blow up later on. For me, the entire thing came out as ignoring my schoolwork, not desocialization. (I think that that entire experience made me ten times better at social things, so it wasn't all bad) However, the general concept is the same. But being tired is a pretty rational thing to feel, and doesn't mean that you're a failure or anything. It means that you're human, and you have feelings and limits. We're not robots.

Raz Reed (Student 2016)
Raz Reed
  1. I can totally understand academic pressure.
  2. I learned that when you say "I'm tired," it's not just that.
  3. Usually when I write the analysis portion of a body paragraph I make it too short, but reading your analytical essay has given me some ideas.