What is a detailed summary of the poem "The Gift in Wartime" by Tran Mong Tu?

Tran Mong Tu’s poem is about all of the things that a victim of war has to give up. In return, the victim receives a mix of indifference and violence.

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The first stanza of Tran Mong Tu’s poem begins with the speaker offering someone—an unnamed “you”—roses and a wedding gown. In the second stanza, this “you” replies by giving the speaker medals, silver stars, and a badge. These items appear to be less meaningful and personal than the items that...

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The first stanza of Tran Mong Tu’s poem begins with the speaker offering someone—an unnamed “you”—roses and a wedding gown. In the second stanza, this “you” replies by giving the speaker medals, silver stars, and a badge. These items appear to be less meaningful and personal than the items that the speaker offers.

This pattern—where the speaker gives away much more than the “you”—continues throughout the poem. In the third stanza, the speaker offers their youth. In return, the “you” gives them the “smell of blood.” Indeed, as the poem unfolds, it appears as if the speaker’s offerings become more abstract, while the offerings of the “you” become more violent and indifferent.

In the fifth stanza, the speaker gives the “you” clouds and a sacrifice. They sacrifice their pleasant “springtime” for the harshness of “cold winters.” Yet the “you” remains unmoved by these offerings. The “you” gives the speaker “lips with no smile” and “arms without tenderness.”

In the final stanza, the violence of the “you” is further clarified when the speaker mentions the “shrapnel”—that is, bomb fragments—that the “you” has given them.

Taking this summary into consideration, it seems that Tran Mong Tu’s poem is mainly about all of the things that a victim of war is forced to give up. Perhaps the “you” in the poem is war itself. That might be why the “you” reacts to the speaker’s offerings with a mix of violence and indifference.

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