A Marker on the Side of The Boat

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by hongyen97
Last updated 5 years ago

Language Arts
Reading Comprehension

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A Marker on the Side of The Boat

SETTINGThe story is set in Hanoi city during the Vietnam War (1956-1975)

Theme- Wars tend to bring sorrow to victims' lives: "voices crying for help" "The shelter has collapsed. People are dying right in front of you" (p.66); "I released her hand... it was the last glimpse I had of my beloved and illusory figure" (p.67)- We sometimes regret for what we did: "But it shouldn't have been the last time. I should have been able to return to that same house, to the same room... to see this woman again" (p.67)

Conflict- Man vs. nature: "I plunge into that fine gauze of drizzle" (p.62)- Man vs. man: " "Eat some, Brother, while it's still hot..." "No!" I said, my voice hoarse, "Hot cold nothing" "- Man vs. society: "B-52s, B-52s, B-52s are coming!" "Those Americans... They're coming" (P.64) "The bombs are coming right now" (p.65)- Man vs self: "By the time another trolley cam clanking by, I had to give up" "I would always return to that same street. I would simply walk down it, not to find anything or go anywhere" (p.67)

Character - The soldier: protagonist, dynamic character- The woman: flat character


Exposition: The soldier drives from the battle of Quang Tri to Ha Noi and asks for permission to the city to deliver letters by his comrades

Inciting Incident:Because of the freezing rain night, the soldier experiences a fever and faints away

Rising actions:He wakes up in a woman's house. She takes care of him considerately. Then, the siren warns that the B-52s are coming to Hanoi. They rush to the shelter together.

Climax:They don't have enough time to get to the shelter. They lie at the foot of a brick wall during the bombing. After the bomb explosion, the shelter has collapsed. He comes to help them and tells the woman to go home and wait for him.

Falling action:The next morning, he follows the trolley track to trace back the woman's house, but the trolley has gone and the houses are identical. He has to give up.

Resolution:The soldier always returns to that street everytime he visits Hanoi. In his latest visit, everything has changed.

A Marker on the Side of the Boat-Bao Ninh-

Figurative LanguageMetaphor- "A city during wartime, on a precipice, abandoned" (p.62)---> solitary city- "Suddenly, death relaxed its claws. The big door in the sky was slammed shut" (p.66)---> The B-52s stop attacking and torturing. There is the last bomb explosion in the sky.-"the sky itself was falling" (p.65)---> The terror of carpet-bombing

Other similar short storyThe Ivory Comb-by Nguyen Quang Sang-Summary: A soldier has to leave home for battle when his only daughter is one year old. After seven years, he comes back with his comrade to visit his family for three days. However, his daughter doesn't recognize him and keeps a distance from him as he has a scar from the war on his cheek, which is different from the picture of him taken a long time ago. This hurts him a lot since she doesn't call him "father" and he doesn't understand why. One day, due to the girl's rude behaviour, the soldier gets furious and he hits her. Then he feels guilty and regretful for a long time. As soon as she recognizes him, he is about to come back the military. The soldier promises that he will buy a comb for her. When he is in the woods, he finds a piece of ivory and carves it everyday until it forms a comb. He desperately hopes to see his daughter again; unfortunately, he sacrifices on the battle field. He gives the comb to his comrade in the last minute of his life. Many years later, that soldier's friend randomly meets the girl, who currently is a liaison. The ivory comb has finally come to the daughter as the soldier's wish.(There's no English translation for this short story, which is unfortunate)Similarities to Bao Ninh's story:-The story takes place during Vietnam War (1950s-60s).- The girl only sees her father once in her life (she was too young to remember her father when she was one year old)- The soldier regrets hitting his child until his death.- War separates their family and destroys their happiness.

Symbolism***The trolleys: things that change in time - "the trolley, my only clue, was gone", "Hanoi had abolished the trolley" (p.67)***The woman house: the goal that we cannot reach - "I stalked back and forth on that street, brooding over my failure... I had to give up" (p.67)

"The Ivory Comb" book cover

The story's title refers to a fable: A man lost his sword while he was on the boat in the middle of the lake. He marked where he lost it on the side of his boat to find it again. However, the marker was washed away because of the water. Eventually, he could never see his sword again.


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