“Spin” Passage: The Things They Carried The function of the passage from the episode “Spin” is to introduce a different interpretation of the concept of “boredom,” one that pertains to the war and the soldiers specifically and not often experienced by civilians. The type of boredom described by the narrator in the passage is tenser, and encompasses many more emotions that the Alpha Company comes across.
Throughout the passage, the reader gets the idea that the soldiers are not bored in the irritated and uninterested way that most people typically are. Instead, the men are anxious, anticipating the next unpleasant event to come upon them at any moment. The narrator explains, “You’d try to relax. You’d uncurl your fists and let your thoughts go. Well, you’d think, this isn’t so bad. And right then you’d hear gunfire behind you and your nuts would fly up into your throat and you’d be squealing pig squeals” (O’Brien 34).
This description of how the soldiers would behave, with curled fists and apprehensive thoughts, jumping at every noise, proves that they are not nonchalant but hyperaware of their surrounding and on edge. When the narrator describes war as “boring,” he refers to the redundancy of always worrying, then allowing oneself to relax for a moment before being bombarded with another battle. The first three sentences from the quote have a calm, slow attitude, especially when juxtaposed with “gunfire,” “nuts,” and “pig squeals,” which are harsh, callous words.
The way in which O’Brien chose to write that particular quote is similar to the repetitive way that the soldiers wait, making the reader understand to some level what it is like to live that way. As a result, O’Brien uses this passage to introduce a new, atypical definition of the word “bored,” where it is used as an “umbrella” word for many other emotions, including anxiety and fear.