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What Idea Is Discussed In Both Tim O’brien’s “ambush” And John Steinbeck’s “symptoms”?

Two great American authors have written pieces that discuss the same idea: the idea of leaving something behind in order to move forward. These pieces discuss the idea of leaving your childhood behind, and how difficult and scary that process is.

Tim O’Brien’s short story, “Ambush,” and John Steinbeck’s novella, “Of Mice and Men,” both discuss how difficult it is for people to leave their pasts behind as they grow up. How hard it is to recognize change and adapt to it!

Both stories explore how childhood experiences shape us, for good and for bad. Not only that, but both stories suggest that we can’t fully move beyond certain parts of our past until we recognize what impact they had on us.

Idea of consequences

Both of these stories talk about the idea of consequences, what can happen after a specific action. Both authors discuss the consequences of going to war, and how it changes you as a person.

In O’Brien’s short story, “Ambush,” the main character goes to war and comes back completely changed. He no longer feels any sympathy or love for other people, even his own wife.

He talks about how in war, you have to do things that are not normal, that are not you. You have to become someone else in order to survive and win the fight.

For example, he had to shoot a little boy who was carrying a gun and threatening him and his squad. Killing him made him feel like he lost part of himself, because he had never felt such strong emotions before going to war.

Idea of character development

Both of these authors discuss the idea of character development in their works. Both authors include characters that develop over the course of the story, sometimes even developing opposite traits.

O’Brien uses this in “The Ambush” when he has his character, Dowd, start off as a very weak and non-confident person but then develop into a strong leader. He also has his character, Harold, start off as a kind and gentle person but then turn into a cold and heartless person.

Steinbeck uses this in “Symptoms” when he has his character Charley start off as an alcoholic but then quit drinking. He also has Charley start off being very mean and uncaring towards his wife but then change and become nicer to her.

Nature vs. nurture

In both of these stories, the main characters struggle with what it means to be a man. The main characters in both of these short stories struggle with their masculinity due to their experiences during childhood.

In “Ambush,” Tim O’Brien discusses how his father was very tough on him, pushing him to participate in masculine activities like hunting and sports. However, as O’Brien points out, his father was not a very nurturing person.

This had a negative impact on O’Brien, who admits that he did not know how to be tender or compassionate until he had his own children. Even then, it took him some time to learn how to be a good parent.

In “Symptoms,” John Steinbeck writes about a young boy named Louis who grew up with an alcoholic father. Because of this, Louis became an alcoholic himself later in life.


In both of these short stories, the idea of consequences is discussed heavily. Both authors allude to the fact that actions have consequences, and they can be unpleasant or painful.

In “Ambush,” Tim O’Brien writes about how the main character, Bobby Varner, has a dream about his friend getting killed in war. Later on, this dream ends up coming true, and Bobby himself ends up killing his friend.

He later finds out that this was not just a dream, but a premonition- a subconscious foresight into the future. This realization brings upon heavy psychological symptoms, such as insomnia and night terrors.

John Steinbeck writes about how karma can come back to bite you- if you do bad things, bad things will happen to you eventually. He also talks about how animals can suffer from psychological symptoms like insomnia and night terrors after experiencing trauma.

Character development

Character development is discussed in both of these short stories. Both authors devote a significant portion of their stories to the development of their characters.

Both authors include a variety of characters with different personalities, beliefs, and backgrounds. As the stories unfold, the readers get to know these characters and understand them.

O’Brien uses himself as a character in his story, which adds another level of character development. The reader gets to understand O’Brien’s personality and background through this character he created.

These two elements make the stories more immersive and entertaining for the reader. The reader is able to connect with the characters on a personal level, which makes the story more memorable.

Both of these authors also use minor characters to develop some characteristics. This adds dimension to the story and makes the character more real for the reader.

Overall comparison

Both O’Brien’s “Ambush” and Steinbeck’s “Symptoms” discuss the idea of a false reality versus a true reality. This can be interpreted in many ways, but most strongly as the difference between what is perceived and what is real.

In O’Brien’s short story, the narrator explains how everything he perceives about the war is a false reality. He explains that he does not perceive the truth about the war, but instead perceives a fabricated reality that he must accept in order to function.

In Steinbeck’s short story, John Dowie explains how his wife has developed a sense of denial about her own symptoms in order to cope with her disease. She denies that she has any symptoms at all, which allows her to function despite the fact that she has cancer.

Both of these examples show how an individual can have two different realities depending on how they perceive and accept things. Both examples also show how an individual can have two different realities due to mental illness.


Harry Potter

Harry Potter, the famed wizard from Hogwarts, manages Premier Children's Work - a blog that is run with the help of children. Harry, who is passionate about children's education, strives to make a difference in their lives through this platform. He involves children in the management of this blog, teaching them valuable skills like writing, editing, and social media management, and provides support for their studies in return. Through this blog, Harry hopes to inspire others to promote education and make a positive impact on children's lives. For advertising queries, contact: support@techlurker.comView Author posts

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