Summary of The Gift in Wartime

Main Summary:

The poem entitled “The Gift in Wartime” is written by Tran Mong Tu. The writer brought up in Vietnam. This poem is about the harsh effects of war on human lives. The speaker in the poem is the poet herself where she talks to her beloved and the war itself.

The poem begins with the speaker offering someone, an unnamed “you” (-referred to the beloved of the poet who is no more), roses and a wedding gown to cover the grassy grave. The poet says that the war replies by giving her medals, silver stars, and a badge. These things appear to be less significant than the items that the speaker offers to her beloved.

The speaker says that she offers her youth (beloved) to the war although they were in love with each other but in return, the war gives them the “smell of blood” i.e. death. The youth of the poet passed away with the bad news that is the death of her beloved.

The speaker offers cloud and cold winter to the unnamed “you”. She means to say that she sacrificed the best thing of her life for the war but the war offered her a motionless body whose lips cannot make smiles and eye cannot make a sight.

At last, the speaker apologizes to her beloved for sending him to the war that took his life away from her. She promises his dead beloved that she would meet him in their next life. She wants to hold the shrapnel (a fragment of the exploding bomb) that will help them to recognize each other.

Analysis &Theme:

  • In the poem ‘The Gift in Wartime’, Tran addresses an absent person. For example, as she says, “l offer you roses,” the person to whom she is speaking is not present and can neither hear nor understand what she is saying.
  • The speaker’s attitude toward war is one of sadness and bitter irony.
  • Harsh effects of war in human life; death
  • Separation
Symbols used:
Visual imagery of roses, clouds, and the body of a corpse.
Figure of Speech:
  • Irony- gift: Death/shrapnel as tokens of remembrance
  • Apostrophe: The speaker uses an apostrophe to address a person who is not present or to an inanimate object; in this poem, the speaker addresses a corpse.
  • Anaphora: the repetition of the same words at the beginning of a line. Tu repeats the ironic “you give me” in stanzas three and five. This anaphora comes to a crescendo in stanza six, when the speaker repeats “you Give me” three times in a row, pounding us with the irony of the empty “gifts of death.
  • Metaphor: she compares her sadness to the “clouds” in her eyes on a summer day.

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