Homework Help

In The Things They Carried why does Norman Bowker carry a thumb and what does it...

user profile pic

kclamors3 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 28, 2012 at 6:32 PM via web

dislike 0 like

In The Things They Carried why does Norman Bowker carry a thumb and what does it symbolize?

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 28, 2012 at 9:54 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

The fact that Norman Bowker carried a thumb is one of the most arresting aspects of the first chapter. The thumb was from a dead Viet Cong boy that the soldiers found. Mitchell Sanders, looking at the dead boy's body swarming with flies, claimed that there was a "moral" to the scene they were seeing, a dead boy, body swarming with flies, at the bottom of an irrigation ditch. When Henry Dobbins asked him what the "moral" was, he cut the boy's thumb off and handed it to Bowker. Bowker kept it ever since, though he is described as a "gentle" man. The other thing he carries is a little more normal, and certainly more in keeping with his "gentle" persona. It is a diary. 

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes