“Late that night he crept down to the dental tent. (...) The dentist couldn’t find any problem, but Lemon kept insisting, so the man finally shrugged and shot in the Novocain and yanked out a perfectly good tooth” (O'Brien 84).
In Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and Disney’s Finding Nemo, the writers both express their disapproval towards feeling the need to prove oneself in front of others through the use of imagery, word choice, and tone. In the book, Curt Lemon has a fear of dentists and faints while getting his teeth inspected; he is so embarrassed of his actions that in the middle of the night he goes to the dentist and forces him to pull a tooth out just to show the other troops. Likewise in Finding Nemo, Nemo is trapped in a fish tank and the fish are desperate to escape. He tries to prove his braveness to the others by clogging the filter but does not succeed until his second attempt. The author and director draw many similarities between Nemo and Curt by using different literary devices.
Both in Finding Nemo and The Things They Carried word choice helps contribute to the similarity between Curt and Nemo. In Finding Nemo, the writer choses to call the clown fish “sharkbait”. This name was given to Nemo from the other fish and is demeaning to the insecure fish. However, the name Curt Lemon is short and has a sharp, strong sound. In The Things They Carried, before Curt Lemon enters the dentist’s tent he says “Nobody messes with these teeth” (O'Brien 83). The word “these” is italicized putting emphasis on that specific word. By doing so Curt is trying to hide his fear by pretending that he is protecting himself instead of the dentist attacking him. The author shows how defensive Curt is by italicizing the word “these”. While in Nemo, the writer shows Nemo’s fear through his silence.
In Finding Nemo and The Things They Carried the actions of the characters and imagery can be used to draw many similarities. On Nemo’s first attempt to clog the filter he fails almost killing himself, and the other fish have to save him just to keep him alive. Further worsening the situation, Nemo lets his guard down by trembling and crying. After Curt faints in The Things They Carried, four troops have to “hoist him up and lay him on a cot” (O'Brien 83). Once he awakes, he secludes himself from the other men and is heard “cussing, bawling himself out” (O'Brien 84). Both Nemo and Curt were helped during a time of weakness without a choice making them feel weak. Many of Curt’s actions have a theme of being down: “fainted”, “lay down”, “crept down”, “look down”, “under”, and “staring down” (O'Brien 82-84). This pessimistic theme is used to explain the character’s insecurity and low self esteem, justifying his behavior. Although he is insecure, his fellow servicemen do not see him that way; they describe him as “the tough solider” (O'Brien 82). This is ironic because on the exterior Curt looks strong and tough but on the inside is insecure. The only time he's confident on the inside and out is right after he’s proved himself: “he was all smiles” (O'Brien 84). Likewise, Nemo’s laughter and smile after successfully clogging the drain shows his confidence after achieving a hard task. The commonality of having a tough exterior but a soft inside ties the two characters together.
The author and writer make the insecure characteristics in Curt and Nemo prominent in order to send a clear message to the readers; pretending to be confident and tough isn’t worth what you give. When someone acts like this it is no secret, and people can see right through it. Both of the writers do not approve of this pathetic behavior.
Curt Lemon and Nemo feel like impressing their peers is most important, and they are willing to sacrifice their comfort in order to achieve social approval. The reason they are so willing to do this is because they are both young, insecure, and naïve. The author of The Things They Carried and the writer of Finding Nemo use effective literary devices such as imagery, dialogue, and word choice to convey this message.