The Sorrow of War

Loss of Youth and Love in Bao Ninh's The Sorrow of War

Bao Ninh’s The Sorrow of War connects the tragedy of wartime to the loss of youth and love. It is the story of an idealist named Kien and his first love, Phuong, and how the dramatic events of war caused their pure love to diminish little by little, until the relationship that once was ceased to exist. Ninh writes, “Kien thought back to the source of his own love, when he had been young. That was now hard to imagine, hard to remember a time when his whole personality and character had been intact, a time before the cruelty and the destruction of war had warped his soul.” (30). In The Sorrow of War, Kien learns that the pure love he experienced as a seventeen year old boy is not attainable postwar because of the haunting events of the Vietnam War.

Before the war, when Kien was still young, he had a very romanticized view of the love he shared with Phuong. It was essentially love at its purest form. It was “so intimate, so perfect that it made [Kien] ache.” (118). There was very little sexual interaction between Kien and Phuong, which emphasized the innocent state that both characters were in. Although they had both time and access to privacy, making them capable of physical interaction, Kien kept Phuong’s virginity for the sake...

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