The Gift in Wartime

Exercise: Question & Answers

Understanding the text

Answer the following questions.

a. Who is the speaker addressing and why can that person not hear or understand what she is saying?
→ The speaker is actually addressing her husband. Because he is dead, he cannot hear or understand what she is saying.

b. What can you infer about the speaker’s feelings for the person addressed as “you”?
→ The speaker has a lot of affection and dedication for the person addressed as “you.”

c. What is the speaker’s attitude toward war?
→ The speaker has a negative outlook on war. Several terrible aspects of the war are depicted in this poem. During the Vietnam War, she lost her husband, whom she loved more than anything in the world. He hasn’t been there for her, and it’s made her miserable.

d. In what ways do you think this person’s fate has affected the speaker?
→ The Speaker has lost her husband in war whom she loves the most. While serving in the American-Vietnamese battle, he was killed by a bomb. Widowhood has left the speaker feeling isolated all alone in the world. Due to a couple of tragic incidents, she now finds herself utterly helpless, alone, and despondent. She is not able to recover the pain of losing her most loved person.  Her mind is always wandering back to her ex-husband. She’s melancholy since she’s always alone.

e. What does the speaker promise at the end of the poem? Why do you think the speaker does this?
→  The speaker promises to meet her lover in their future life at the end of the poem. She’ll preserve the shrapnel as a reminder of their meeting. I believe the speaker does this to show her genuine feelings for him.

Reference to the context

a. What is the theme of the poem?
War’s suffering on its victims is the main subject of this poem. Humanity loses enormously when war breaks out. Everything that comes from a war is a series of destruction and devastation. It only serves to exacerbate existing inequities and cast a dark shadow over the future.

b. What imagery from the poem made the greatest impression on you? Why?
The literary technique known as imagery is used to provide readers with a visual representation of what they’re reading. We see images of flowers on graves, a beautiful green tomb, and a memorial wreath made of shrapnel in this poem.
Because the speaker mentions all she has acquired from her dear partner who is no longer with her, the image from the sixth line really touched a nerve with me. War has stolen her charming demeanour, leaving her lifeless. These lines depict the speaker’s lonesome state of mind after losing her lover.

c. Which figurative language is used in the poem? Explain with examples.
The use of language that deviates from the literal meaning of words is referred to as figurative language. Irony, apostrophe, anaphora, and metaphor are all used in this poem’s figurative language.

Irony: When words have the opposite meaning from what they are supposed to express, they are ironic. There is no genuine gift mentioned in this poem when the speaker talks of wartime gifts. Instead, she is talking about the sadness and loss caused by war. A tomb or a sliver of glass will never be appreciated or desired as a gift.

Apostrophe: Apostrophe means to use in such a case, where the individual being addressed is not present. For instance, the speaker is speaking to her dead husband.

Anaphora: When the same words or phrases appear more than once in a line, this is called anaphora. We can take “I offer you” as an example. It appears three times in the first three sentences.

Metaphor: To compare two objects that aren’t the same yet have something in common, we use a metaphorical comparison. Here, the speaker likens her sorrow to the clouds on a hot summer day.

d. What does the speaker “offer” in this poem? What does the person addressed as “you” give in return?
The speaker of this poem shows her affection by giving presents to the person she loves like roses, veils, wedding gowns, and her entire youth. She is awarded in return with brilliant star medals, a yellow pips badge, a bloodied wardress, and an immovable body (husband’s corpse).

e. An apostrophe is a literary device in which a writer or speaker addresses an absent person or an abstract idea in such a way as if it were present and can be understood. Discuss the poem in relation to the apostrophe.
The speaker uses an apostrophe to mention her late husband. By doing so, she has been able to communicate her emotions and her sorrow to him in a straightforward manner. This aids her in lowering her sorrow. She was also able to deliver the message and make the commitment to meet again in the future by addressing the missing “you.”

Reference beyond the text

a. One way to get relief from grief is to write or talk about it. In your opinion, how might the speaker in this poem have benefitted from saying what she did? Explain.
→ When we share our sorrow, our pain reduces a bit because we can get sympathy by sharing our pain. The speaker was able to lessen the pain of her wartime experience for her listeners and viewers by emphasizing the actions and efforts she made in her solitary life. When a person gets wounded in war, it affects everyone around them, not just the one who is injured. One of the most helpful things the speaker did was write a poem in memory of her late husband. She is more at ease now that she thinks she has talked with him face to face. His assurance that they will reunite in the hereafter warms her heart. The speaker has used a wide range of literary strategies to make her feelings of grief, sadness, and love for the deceased, as well as her anger and horror at war, clear to the audience.

b. Write an essay on the effects of war.
Conflict between countries or groups of people is referred to as a war. War, no matter how big or little, is always destructive. In the end, it’s bad for everyone, whether they’re strong or weak, winner or loser. War’s most tragic side effect is death, but it’s hardly the worst. Even if you die, there are situations that are worse than that.

War reduces the availability of food, weakens people’s sense of self-reliance, and so on. The worst of it, though, is the emotional distress it creates. People’s hopes and aspirations are dashed because of it. It’s a waste of potential. Suddenly, everything goes horribly wrong after everything has been good for so long. Worst of all is the worry that something will go horribly wrong.

War never gives joy to others, but takes it. People suffer physically and psychologically as a result of war. Effects of conflict last for years to come. A gloomy future is fostered by war. The terrible reality of war is that it will lead to the extinction of mankind.


The Gift in Wartime is a memoir about Tran Mong Tu’s time in Vietnam. War, according to the author, is a horrible event that leaves young brides widowed when it ends. 

As she describes it, the pain of seeing her own husband with unworn medals and silver stars that are still glistening on their immobile bodies is a very devastating moment for a young woman. Written as a theatrical conversation, the poem features an unknown “you,” who in reality is her (dead) husband. 

Initially, the poem discusses the list of presents she gave to her husband and of things he gave her in return. The bride placed a bouquet of flowers on his grave and draped her bridal garment over it. She has given him the best of all she has to offer: her youth, her beauty, her love, and a beautiful spring. In return,  she gets his military awards, including his medal and rank insignia as well as an unmovable body.

Since he is no longer with her, his death or soul has also served as a gift to her. In the end, she hopes to reunite again in the afterlife. She’ll save the shrapnel as a remembrance for when they meet again in the next world.

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