The Things They Carried
The Things They Carried Explicatory Essay
The Things They Carried is a fictional chef-d’oeuvre by Tim O’Brien, which catalogs among other things, the different things that soldiers carried to the Vietnam War. These soldiers carried emotional and physical burdens alike. Obrien notes, “They carried the emotional baggage of men who might die.
Grief, terror, love, longing-these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight. They carried shameful memories…cowardice…they carried the soldier’s fear (20). The psychological effects of the Vietnam War tore the soldiers psychologically especially Lieutenant Cross.
The psychological burden of guilt surfaces immediately after the story starts. Jimmy Cross, a lieutenant enlisted to take care of the other soldiers is the victim of the guilt burden. Jimmy witnessed as a bullet broke open Lavender’s skull. Given the fact that he was the one in charge of the other soldiers’ well-being, he felt he could have done something to prevent Lavender’s death.
Unfortunately, he could do nothing at that point; Lavender was dead and gone for good. Jimmy became emotionally troubled because instead of concentrating on the security and well-being of fellow soldiers he could only think of Martha. Consequently, Lavender died due to his lack of concentration or so he thought.
Jimmy could not live up to this duty and when Lavender died before his eyes, he realized how careless he had been in executing his duties. All these feelings culminated into guilt feelings, an emotional burden that he had to bear so long as the war continued. What a terrible emotional baggage for one to carry!
Cross sincerely loved Martha and no matter how hard he tried to subdue these feelings, they resurfaced with time. This psychological burden weighed so heavily on him that at times he lost focus on the war. O’Brien observes, “He loved her so much…though painful, he wondered who had been with her that afternoon” (8).
Though painful, Jimmy decided to forget Martha completely, bear the psychological turmoil attached to it, and focus on the war. Forgetting a lover is not an easy task, it takes more than a willing heart, it takes absolute resolve, and this comes with its psychological upheavals.
Emotionally, Cross was a torn person, full of sorrows and heavy laden with emotional burdens. O’Brien deliberately explores Jimmy’s case to show the psychological burdens that the soldiers brought along together with the things they carried. Lieutenant Jimmy Cross was not alone in this predicament, as aforementioned, every soldier had his fair share of emotional baggage, as shown by the few soldiers O’Brien chose to use in The Things They Carried.
Family ties are usually very strong and separating someone from his/her family amounts to emotional torture; something that the soldiers had to live with. For instance, Kiowa, “…carried an illustrated New Testament that had been presented to him by his father…” (O’Brien 3). Nothing could remind Kiowa of his dad like that treasured bible; every time he saw the bible, he would remember his beloved father.
Henry Dobbins on his part carried a pair of pantyhose and he would poke his noses into the paper containing the panties from time to time. Not that Henry Dobbins loved his girlfriend’s panties; no, he missed her and this burdened him psychologically.
In conclusion, the intangible things that the soldiers carried into the Vietnam War had real weight, to some extent, heavier than the physical burdens. Jimmy Cross carried the guilt of letting Lavender die while engrossed in thoughts of his ever-elusive lover, Martha.
Kiowa carried the emotional burden of his father and grandfather and the possibility of not seeing them once again weighed heavily on him. Collectively, these soldiers experienced different forms of psychological torture, especially Cross who had to forget his lover and bear the guilt of seeing Lavender die from his carelessness.
O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1990.
O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried”: Literary Analysis
The essay analyzes “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. This collection of short stories is devoted to a platoon of American soldiers who fight in the Vietnam War. The book is a powerful blend of fact and fiction that leaves the reader with a lasting impression of fear, love, and gratitude for the novel’s components. When describing the tangibles, O’Brien incorporates weight and number to force the pressures of the soldiers onto the reader.
As the plot unfolds, O’Brien moves the reader through scenes of war, telling multiple stories of love, death, and friendships combining with a narrative. More specifically, O’Brien incorporates interruptions of himself talking to us like the reader is watching a movie, and he keeps pressing pause to explain a scene that we might not have fully grasped. In this paper, a literary analysis of “The Things They Carried” will be presented to reveal the significance of the act of “listening” to its reader.
The Things They Carried: Critical Analysis and Impressions
O’Brien takes the reader through a series of repeated utterances as depicted through cyclic stories of love, war, and death vividly, engaging the reader into an active session of a movie-like scene. More importantly, several pauses are encountered throughout the story, as the author tries to explain some examples which the reader may not have otherwise understood.
Throughout the book, O’Brien tells the audience about war stories, in which some instances remain doubtful about their validity. As seen from the following quote, Tim’s war story makes the reader to render it invalid when he says the stories are mere imaginations: “The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you…..memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head….. There is the illusion of aliveness…” (O’Brien 230).
As O’Brien reveals to the reader various scenarios telling stories of death and friendship, warfare conditions, and love relationships, he incorporates disruption of himself talking to the audience as if they are watching a film. It is the author’s complex blend of fact and fiction, which takes the reader into an in-depth understanding of the underlying implication of “The Things They Carried” short stories. The analysis shows that the novel sounds more to a narrative than the story, where every twinge is factual beyond reality.
Particularly, O’Brien engrosses the reader into an active listening-like session through his utterances of vivid description of war scenarios, making the novel more involving than just mere storytelling. As seen from the quote, “If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste…then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie…” (O’Brien 68).
As has been noted, O’Brien presents severe events in fiction as a strategy to emphasize how dangerous the situation was during the time of the war. Concerning the novel’s title, the soldiers are brought out having a variety of objects and practices they carried in a foreign land they went for battle. As O’ Brien (82) utters “… It’s safe to say that in a true war story nothing is ever absolutely true… Sometimes war is beautiful, sometimes it’s horrible…” there appears to be pain and happiness in war.
Though this theme may seem confusing, it takes the reader into the inner revelation of how the soldiers were undergoing a blend of experiences in which some made them happy while others saddened them. As a result, most of the unfolding in this novel ends up engaging the reader into active listening scenarios, which facilitate a deeper understanding of the underlying issues.
As it is noted, O’Brien takes the readers through a story of his current self, which seems more a story than real experience. His frequent questioning of the definition of a “true story” and what truth implies in any story engages the reader into active sessions of listening to his utterances. At the same time, the author engages the reader into a description of the numerous deaths of his champions in a repetition manner.
For instance, O’Brien (129) describes the shape of the dead man’s eye more than five times in the previous chapters. A vivid account of the author’s remarks on various events through his repetition tendency to engage the reader into the active unfolding of his intentions to write the novel emerges as a film like presentation since it requires the close attention of his utterances. By so doing, O’Brien succeeds in engaging his audience into active sessions through his blend of literary devices to present various ideas.
Also, O’Brien seems to exaggerate in his vivid accounts of the experience the soldiers in the war. Through describing the war in various dimensions, the author leaves the readers feeling burdened with hardships and turmoil that his soldiers were undergoing, though some doubt about its actual existence remains an imminent issue to his audience.
As O’Brien (75) reveals, “…and the whole war is right there in that stare. It says everything you can’t ever say…” the warfare situation seems harsh and unbearable among the soldiers, since some end up being killed with others brutalized in various ways. Notably, the act of listening in most of the author’s utterances seems quite crucial in the sense that it provides the reader with a vivid account of the happenings presented in this novel.
While describing the tangibles, O’Brien describes the entire scenario of how each character was armed with a variety of objects as they set for the war. It is the force and the weight of the flamboyant explanation of the setting to the war by the soldiers that engage the reader into more active participation in the entire scene.
For instance, “…every third or fourth person carried a Claymore antipersonnel mine – 3.5 pounds with its firing device…they carried fragmentation of grenades – 14 ounces each…they all carried at least one M-18 colored smoke grenade – 24 ounces…” (O’Brien 7).
Quite significantly, the use of repetition in this extract seems to engross the reader into a more precise account of the actual setting of the soldiers into the war. This leaves the reader into active listening of the utterances of the author as he tries to bring into attention how much the soldiers were prepared for the war.
This essay analyzes Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.” This collection of short stories is devoted to a platoon of American soldiers who fight in the Vietnam War. In summary, the act of listening in this book is quite crucial in the sense that it provides the reader with a more profound revelation of the utterances presented by O’Brien. More so, close following of the stories told by the author through the act of listening unveils the real nature of the scenes despite seeming like a blend of fiction and reality. On this basis, therefore, O’Brien succeeds in facilitating activeness among his audience through his use of language and various rhetorical devices to present his ideas uniquely.
O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York: Broadway Publisher, 1998.
Further Study: FAQ
? How to shart The Things They Carried essay?
Start your essay by introducing your reader to O’Brien’s book. What are these stories about? When were they written? Begin with a plot’s general overview and analyze specific themes later on.
? What does Tim O’Brien carry in The Things They Carried?
The story contains numerous descriptions of the things carried by soldiers. Sometimes they are purely physical objects such as weapons or chewing gum. On a more metaphysical level, those things are feelings of loss or happiness, guilt, habits, or a soldier’s mentality.
? What are the key literary devices in The Things They Carried?
O’Brien uses such literary devices as symbolism, allegory, juxtaposition, and simile. The narration is a crucial stylistic element, too. The author switches between different narrative voices, which makes us question the realness of events.
? Who was The Things They Carried publisher?
The first edition of the book was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1990. Some of the stories included in The Things They Carried were published in Esquire in earlier years.
The Realistic Setting in the O’Brien Story “The Things They Carried“ Essay
The Things They Carried’ is one of the short stories in the book “Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing.” The story was written by Tim O’Brien who, according to his military life experiences between 1968 and 1970 served as an infantry fighter in Vietnam. Though the characters of this story are fictional, O’Brien obviously created a realistic setting in the story based on his personal experiences in combat.
By doing so, he was able to depict the harsh realities and emotional problems that soldiers go through in war environments. This analysis became evident in the story as depicted by the actions of the principal character, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross. Lieutenant Cross carried a heavy burden within himself after failing to concentrate in the war. Consequently, he lost his sense of reality by constantly daydreaming about a girl known as Martha.
The beginning of the short story is a simple one explaining the things soldiers carried as they went to war. O’Brien found it difficult to discuss most of the topics in the story hence he employed a distant way of telling the story of the Vietnam War. His intention was to convey the message that the war did not affect him much. However, the structure and the feelings created by the events starting from noble events to distressing ones are important in the story.
They form the basis of the discussion of emotional experiences that affected the soldiers in combat. In the end, it was clear that the things that soldiers carried were not at all ‘things.’ The soldiers had to deal with the emotional feelings of men who were exposed to the risk of death. Things like terror, love and fear were not tangible but the weight they had on the soldiers was tangible. The author says that the soldiers carried with them shameful memories and a feeling of cowardice (O’Brien 21).
The presentation of such passages causes the reader to share in the grief of the soldiers. The author gives details that compel the reader to look at the soldiers as fellow human beings and people who go through the experiences of normal human beings. Just like other human beings, the soldiers had their troubles and emotions.
Fear, cowardice and shame were some of the burdens they carried while at war. These were burdens that troubled them contributing towards their character change. O’Brien uses characters like Mary Anne Bell and Mark Fossie to show how the soldiers were changed from innocent people into savages.
As the author gives an explanation of the things soldiers carried, he presents the major themes of imagination and memory in the story. O’Brien succeeds in showing how these two themes can facilitate mental escape. For instance, Lieutenant Cross always thought of Martha even as he performed his normal duties during the war. He did not have memories of her but only imagined of their romantic trips together.
These imaginations of Lieutenant Cross are described by the author as full of pretence. The importance of the deeds of Lieutenant Cross is shown when O’Brien gives information about the photograph of Martha and letters from her that were carried by Lt Cross. These symbolized the love Cross had for Martha.
O’Brien deviates from using literary techniques where he describes the physical things of the soldiers and presents the most important characters in the story. He provides important details of the things that were carried by the soldiers. The explanation of the things carried by the soldiers helps the reader to look at them in a more realistic manner.
The author aims at helping the reader connect with the feelings of the soldiers and take the situation as if it was real. Details such as the weight of things like radios, grenades and weapons seem trivial but assist the readers in getting a real picture of the weight of the war (O’Brien 399).
O’Brien uses the death of Lavender to present the situation Lieutenant. Cross found himself in since his role in the war conflicted with his conscience and the imaginations that brought peace to him. Lieutenant Cross burnt the letters from Martha and accepted that he was responsible for the death of Lavender.
This conflict in his line of thought informs the reader that one should be careful to differentiate fantasy from truth. Although he burned what seemed to be a constant reminder of Martha, his memory of her did not disappear. In addition, he carried a burden of guiltiness and pain for what he did.
Lieutenant Cross is used by the author to explain the concept of mental escapism. Mental escapism is defined as the act of focusing on unimportant things in order to avoid unpleasant conditions. Lieutenant Cross was supposed to focus on the war but instead he spent all his time thinking about Martha.
After the death of Kiowa, he was also supposed to look for his body but instead he concentrated on thinking about the letter he had to write to Kiowa’s father. He managed to concentrate on issues that were not related to the war yet he was compelled to carry a heavy burden because of that. The short story was an important contribution towards the Literature of war in Vietnam with O’Brien being credited for his ability in memorializing war experiences.
O’Brien, Tim. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. New York: Longman, 2010. Print.
Literary Interpretation & Critique Paper Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried Essay
Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried is a fusion of stories derived from both fact and fiction regarding the Vietnam War, which conveys the emotions and experiences of a soldier during and after the war. The title of the book is associated to the author’s description of characters not by their personality, but by the items they carried (O’Brien 7).
The main narrative device in the book is repetition, which is employed by the author through creation of a slightly surreal yet factual ambience for the reader. For example, the author repeats the phrases “the things they carried” and “they carried” throughout the book. O’Brien tells the story interchangeably as his present self and through “Tim the soldier who describes the experiences of O’Brien through a second person narrative” (Nagel 130).
The result is an alternating form of realism and imagination, which the author acknowledges when he states that “the thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is the illusion of aliveness.” (O’Brien 230).
In reference to the statement, the author in essence questions the actuality of a “true war story,” which is also sustained by the fact that according to Tim, his story is merely a dream (Beidler 122). “O’Brien creates an element of doubt in the book by interlinking fact and fiction by extensively employing imagination and reality” (Nagel 128-129).
For example, in chapter eleven “The Man I Killed,” he imagines that the man he has killed “was born in 1946. His parents were farmers. He was neither a Communist nor a fighter and all he hoped for was that the Americans would go away…He had delicate fingers and might have been a scholar.
The other boys at school might have teased him because he may have had a woman’s walk and a love for mathematics” (O’Brien 129-130). However, in the chapter titled “Notes” O’Brien goes on to define real events in his life such as in 1975 when he received a handwritten letter from Norman Bowker that describes the effects of the war on a former soldier and encouraged O’Brien to write about the effects of the Vietnam War (Nagel 138).
The difficulty in writing truth about war arises from the fact that wartime conditions are unstable, rushed and marred with confusion. A soldier’s emotions and senses are exclusively focused to staying alive and conquering the enemy which “creates a ‘tunnel-vision’ mindset, superseding senses associated with hindsight and recollection” (Nagel 142). In addition, soldiers are trained to be brave and confident but, as humans, they are still “prone to natural reactions such as fear and cowardice in addition to fatal mistakes such as killing a fellow soldier by mistake” (Nagel 142).
However, the acknowledgement of such a mistake may lead to criticism or punishment, which compels soldiers to only “portray their actions as heroic regardless of their experiences” (Nagel 145). As a result, the stories of war are biased which greatly compromises the integrity of facts, which is possibly “the main reason why narrator Tim states he will conceal parts of Jimmy Cross’ story” (Nagel 151). The truth is especially slanting when war occurs in an isolated region such as Vietnam as compared to a large-scale war such as World War II.
The writer applies diction to achieve in creating more vivid events to emphasize on the emotions in a certain event. This is so because he wants to sway the audience to feel what he felt. For example, in the story Good Form, O’Brien gives reasons why he tells stories. “What stories can do, I guess, is make things present. I can look at things I never looked at. I can attach faces to grief and love and pity and God. I can be brave. I can make myself feel again.” (180)
The writer emphasizes on how his emotions can be expressed in both imaginary and fiction narrations. To achieve in making a story important, he must express his feelings by narrating the event in a way that influences the reader’s perception by placing a reader on the battle field and this is achieved by effective enunciation (Ringnalda 78).
O’Brien uses imagery in his writing, for example in “The Man I Killed”, the author writes, “His jaw was in his throat, his upper lip and teeth were gone, his one eye was shut, his other eye was a star shaped hole, his eyebrows were thin and arched like a woman’s…” (124).
This is a clear description of use of imagery as a figure of speech. Imagery exactly captures and expresses feelings to the audience by creation of images in the audience mind. Juxtaposition is another figure speech that is able to express fiction importance by fully showing how similar and close it is to reality in a story. O’Brien explains how in a happening-truth that “there were many bodies, real bodies with real faces, but I was young then and I was afraid to look” (180). In this statement, the writer explains the reality of the story as if he was still there (Biess and Moeller 45).
When Norman circles the lake in his hometown, having in mind all the things he had lost it symbolizes Norman as a satellite that is unable to resist the magnetic force of the lake. Finally, when he submerges himself in the lake, it symbolizes his later suicide. In ‘Field Trip’, the narrator judges the field with the same old emotions, not knowing the outcome would not be the same.
Embarking to the location of Kiowa’s death twenty years later, he is surprised to find the field at peace and more strangely is the absence of the feeling he felt whenever he was approached with the place that has symbolized everything vulgar and violent from his past.
Surprisingly, when the narrator enters into the fields, he re-emerges with a new outlook, finally having freed himself from the shackles of bitterness the fields were redesigned for baptism and he cleansed himself from the destruction of the war (Beidler 132). Mark Fossie’s lover who is from America is a symbol of the goodness in America. In“Sweetheart of Song Tra Bong”, however, reflects the changes that happen to the innocent girl. When she is trans-located from Cleveland suburbs and settles on the mountains of Vietnam.
The occurrence of the war and the loud silence of the mountain have a seductive effect on the young girl. Once innocent girl is now able to amass instinctive ransacks and to lock off channels, the innocence she had fades so does the love Mark had for her. She rubs off her youthful dreams of getting married to Mark after his return and they finally separate (Biess and Moeller 55).
Beidler Philip. Re-writing America: Vietnam Authors in Their Generation .Georgia: University of Georgia, 1991. Print
Biess, Frank, & Robert Moeller. Histories of the Aftermath: The Legacies of the Second World War in Europe. London: Berghahn Books, 2010. Print.
Nagel, James. The Contemporary American Short-Story Cycle: The Ethnic Resonance of Genre. California: LSU Press, 2004. 119- 148. Print.
O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York: Broadway, 1998. Print.
Ringnalda, Don. Fighting and Writing the Vietnam War. Mississippi: University of Mississippi Press of Mississippi, 2008. Print.
The Things They Carried Essay
“The Things They Carried” is a short story written by Tim O’Brien to present to the readers his own autobiography and a war memoir. O’Brien complicates the narration by creating the protagonist who actually shares his real name. The story is about a platoon of soldiers from the American soil fighting in the Vietnam War.
The title of the story “The Things They Carried” is effective for it describes the soldiers and the kind of valuables they brought along in their missions. This is evidenced by the introduction of the story where Tim O’Brien gives a detailed description of the main characters and what they carry from the physical items to emotional ones as well. This paper will focus on the title of the story “The Things They Carried” and how it acts as a guide to the meaning of the story.
Through the use of literary techniques, the author gives detailed accounts of the tangible and intangible things which the soldiers take with them and which most of the times burden them. Each of the soldier’s possessions defines the kind of people they really are. The things that the soldiers carry depend on several factors like their constitutions, priorities, missions, necessity, and sometimes superstition.
The narrator says “they carried malaria tablets, love letters, 28 pound mine detectors, dope, illustrated bibles, and each other.” If the soldiers happen to arrive home safely and sound, “they carried unrelenting images of a nightmarish war” (O’Brien, 2009). The title of the story fits well with its meaning as evidenced by the first point of view of the narrator when describing the things they carry.
Jimmy Cross the Lieutenant of the company carries letters written by his girlfriend Martha everywhere he goes. Even though the girl has not given Jimmy a sign or an indication of love, he still carries the letters as a reminder of his love for her. Jimmy’s backpack carries each letter written by Martha and his mouth carries “her good luck charm” (O’Brien, 2009).
After marching the whole day, Jimmy would sit down, unwrap the letters and fantasize that Martha will one day come to her senses and returning his love. Apart from the letters, Jimmy does carry Martha’s photographs to serve as a memory of her. It was only once that he got the chance to go on a movie date with Martha.
During the movie, he had touched her knee and the look she gave him made Jimmy withdraw his hand fast. O’Brien explains that, while on mission, Jimmy wishes that “he had carried her upstairs, tied her to the bed, and touched her knee the whole night” (2009).
The description of the physical items carried by the men on their day to day events give the story a meaning. The narrator O’Brien makes it possible for the reader to realize this; he explains the physical items as mosquito repellants, chewing gums, and pocket knives among others (2009).
Henry Dobbins one of the platoon members carries a large machine gun and extra rations of food to nourish his huge body. At the same time, Dobbins superstitious nature makes him carry and tie the pantyhose of his girlfriend around the neck. Ted Lavender who is ever nervous carries tranquilizers and marijuana to use when he need to calm down. Kiowa who is a religious man carries the New Testament Bible given to him by his father in all missions. The things that these men carry are highly determined by the kind of necessities they have.
One Dave Jensen is a very hygienic man and as a result, he carries his tooth brush wherever he goes together with dental floss and bar soaps stolen from Sydney, Australia. As a matter of necessity, the men are required to carry important items like wrist watches, mosquito repellants, can openers, heat tabs, pocket knives, lighters, sewing kits, matches, salt, cigarettes, water, food rations, and Military payment Certificates among other items.
Steel helmets and camouflage covers are equally a necessity which each man has to carry. For clothing, the men would carry fatigue trousers and jackets, boots, socks, and foot powder to protect them against foot diseases. While Mitchell Sanders carries condoms, Norman Bowker carries his diary, and Rat Kiley values his comic books and carries them everywhere.
According to O’Brien, the land is full of booby traps, therefore it is a necessity for every man to carry “steel centered, nylon covered flak jacket” (2009).
With the cold nights, it is a requirement that the men carry plastic ponchos which are green in color, to use as raincoats during the monsoons or makeshift tent or even a groundsheet. All these items are universal and essential as evidenced by Ted Lavender’s situation after he is shot; using the poncho, the men wrap him well and carry him across the paddies to the chopper which takes him away for treatment.
Depending on psychology and topography, the men carry the right kind of weapons and enough ammunition. According to the type of mission, the men carry varied weapons to suit the varied situations. They carry M-14S, shotguns, Simonov carbines, bayonets, Smith and Wesson handguns, and silencers among the many types of weapons.
In most situations, Lee Strunk carries his slingshot which he calls “the weapon of last resort” (O’Brien, 2009). Kiowa would carry the hatchet which his grandfather was fond of using and Mitchell Sanders carries brass knuckles. Each man is required to carry grenades; the grenades could be smoke grenades, white phosphoric grenades or tear gas grenades.
Tim O’Brien explains that “they carried all they could bear, and then some; including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried” (O’Brien, 2009).
The things they carry also vary with the kind of mission to attend; on a mountainous mission, the men carry machetes, tarps, mosquito nets, and bug juice. On night and ambush missions, each man carries the most valued item in their lives. The title the things they carried gives meaning to the entire story as evidenced by the stuff the soldiers carry.
Superstition plays a role in the things the men carry; Jimmy Cross does not leave his good luck charm in the form of a pebble given to him by Martha. Dave Jenson carries along a rabbit foot and Norman Bowker carries the thumb given to him by Mitchell Sanders.
The men carry stationary, pens and pencils, safety pins, signal flares, razor blades, candles, fingernail clippers, trip flares, wire, hats, statuettes of the Buddha, and so much more.In conclusion, the things the men carry change after Ted Lavender’s death. With Lieutenant Jimmy Cross blaming himself for fantasizing about Martha instead of saving Ted, he burns everything that reminds him of her.
The title of the story gives its meaning; of all the things the men carry, the greatest burden is their emotions. They carry loads of desires, memories, and fears as well. To show the seriousness of the intangible burden, the lieutenant Jimmy Cross says “it is very sad the things the men carried inside” (O’Brien, 2009).
O’Brien, T. (2009). The things they carried: A work of fiction. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Vietnam War in the Book “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien Essay
The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien’s is a fictional story that surpasses the field of Vietnam War fiction. Essentially, it surpasses the fiction in general even though the author categorizes it as a work of fiction. The story, narrated in first-person narrator covers the events before and after the war.
The story exposes the soldiers’ dilemma, fears, and feelings during and after the war. The author explores the historical, social and economic setting of the time, which is evident in the contemporary world (O’Brien 1).
The soldiers are depicted as young men who are unprepared for the war. This is evident by the intangible emotional fear they carry along with memories of their loved ones. Tim O’Brien’s captures the historical negative effects of Vietnam War on US economy.
The soldiers carried some food supplies, pictures of their girlfriends, fear, sadness and confusion. This in essence portrayed their social status, a characteristic exhibited by a present day soldier when going to war.
The Irony of being at war is that Peace and conflict are both inevitable; it is the way we handle either of the two that determines our opinion of life in general both in the present and future, that is clearly depicted in the book where O’Brien is the Protagonist re-living his experience at war through the pages of his book as the fictional character.
Age, we see that this is an important qualification required when recruiting troops to join the army in fighting any war. Among other things, lack of maturity was largely the cause of death as young men under nineteen, were not equipped with the emotional stability required to deal with the Ugliness of war.
When drafted, one is not left with much choice and the decision made is unfortunately more often than no based on fear other than ethics. With the alternative of going to jail many of the young men reluctantly motivated only by the embarrassment of shame.
Among the striking things possessed by the soldiers were weapons, protective gears for survival purposes. Personal items included a bible, foot powder, comic books, marijuana and a hatchet. O’Brien asserts that dignity could never be put down and was perhaps the hardest emotion to carry but could not be surrendered.
O’Brien observes that fear and panic in the midst of the noise of battle was a common phenomenon. Ironically, some soldiers were at the brink of crying, wishing that they had not come (O’Brien 21). The narrator brings forward the constant stream of distressing memories of the war, attempts of realism and insights. Fear among the soldiers was covered up with unusual stunts and tough speeches.
The human nature of the soldiers is clearly depicted by the things they carried. O’Brien lists the items that were carried by the soldiers, and this way, he individualizes and humanizes them. The intangible items carried by the soldiers were even more symbolic.
O’Brien observes that the items were heavier than their tangible backpacks. Although the soldiers appear to have no idea of what they were fighting, their country, God and the weight of duty characterized their intangible items. He writes, “It was not battle, it was just the endless march, village to village, without purpose, nothing won or lost. They marched for the sake of the march” (O’Brien 15).
Another irony depicted by the story is the soldiers’ real motivation; fear of being referred as cowards. Every soldier is said to have death as his ultimate fear, but death was better than humiliation.
In the history books, the Vietnam War is best described as America’s longest war dated back to President Harry Truman who committed fifteen million dollars aid to the French forces in Indochina in 1950 to the fall of Saigon in 1975. In the years the funding of wars has been on the increasing prompting more and more soldiers dehumanize each other to cope with the deaths of their comrades.
The pain of losing their comrades affected the soldiers during and after the war. According to the narrator, “soldiers used a hard vocabulary to contain the terrible softness” (O’Brien 20). He observes that soldiers formed intimate relationship, just like any other colleagues in an organization.
Nevertheless, soldiers used language to trivialize their bonds when death occurred to their comrades. In place of the word die or dead, they used words like greased, zapped, offend, lit up, to describe the deaths of their friends thus proving the fact that though death is inevitable, none of us want to live in the reality of it.
The Things They Carried is very relevant to Peace and Conflict studies. The book clearly points out the unwillingness and unpreparedness of the soldiers when going to war.
We see an inner conflict as depicted by O’Brien and a continuous struggle to release the pain and anguish that has builds up as a result of experiences from the war affecting the family around him trying to find meaning and redemption in his war stories. The characters in the story acts to speak loudly against the option of going to war, a war like the Vietnam War.
O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York, NY: Broadway Publishers, 1998. Print.
War Impacts in “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien Essay
This research work will focus on the effect of war on soldiers, as presented in Tim O’Brien’s book, ”The Things They Carried’. The book talks about what it takes to be a soldier and how the soldiers are affected when they go to war (O’Brien 56). In some of the cases, they may face their death trying to fight for the society. In this research, the focus will be to determine how being a soldier shapes one’s sense of self. According to Heberle (71), it takes a lot to be a successful soldier with the right mental strength when going to war. In order to be able to address this topic properly, the researcher will use a number of questions that would lead to the desired results.
Questions you will want to pursue
It is important to work with some specific questions that would help in the generation of the desired results. These questions would help in the process of gathering relevant data that will be used in collecting the relevant information. In this research, the following questions will be used.
What is the effect of war on the soldier?
How does being a soldier shape one’s sense of self?
Responding to the above two questions would help in finding answers to the research topic. They would help the researcher to determine the effect of war on soldiers as presented in the works of Tim O’Brien and other related literal works.
When addressing this research paper, a number of challenges are expected that may affect the overall quality of the paper. It is important to understand these challenges in order to find a way of addressing then. A common challenge expected is the conflicting information presented by some of the scholars. It is common to find a situation where the information in one source contradicts information in another source. Knowing the truth in such circumstance may be a challenge. Sometimes finding all the relevant sources may also be a challenge. To address these problems, the researcher intends to make an effort to collect as much information from various sources as possible.
The Final Paper
The book ”The Things They Carried’ by Tim O’Brien is a memory of a soldier who participated in the Vietnam War. It is a reflection of what transpires in the life of a soldier as he or she engages the enemies in combat for the sake of his or her country. O’Brien recounts the events that took place while they were in the battlefields. He also recalls the feelings of the soldiers while they are in the field fighting for their nation. The book gives a true reflection of the effect of war on soldiers from the perspective of a soldier who directly participated in a war to defend his country.
How being a soldier shape one’s sense of self
According to O’Brien, being a soldier means a lot because, in its very own nature, one is not allowed to make an independent decision. He went to fight in Vietnam, but he never believed in the war itself. The problem with being a soldier is that one cannot make independent decisions and act upon them. Soldiers are trained to take orders, even when the order goes against one’s wish. In this manner, this profession shapes one’s sense of self from being an independent-minded person to being like a machine that is controlled by the commanders. They learn to take instructions without questioning and to act upon them as expected.
A soldier is expected to be patriotic to his or her country. This means that he or she should be ready to sacrifice self for the sake of the country. They should be willing to engage in wars- even if they do not believe in them- for the sake of protecting the interests of their country (O’Brien 83). O’Brien did not believe in the Vietnam War, but given that the military leaders of his country believed in the war, he had to participate in it. At one moment he even considered escaping to Canada, but his patriotism forced him to stay at war. This is the response that any soldier should not consider escaping from.
As a soldier, one is not allowed to express his or her political affiliation while at work. Soldiers are expected to serve their country irrespective of the political leadership in the country. Sometimes they may be forced to engage in wars that serve a political purpose. However, they must always follow the orders given by the country’s political leader who is their commander-in-chief. Heberle (56) emphasizes on the fact that sometimes a soldier may be forced to go to the battlefield to fight for a political course that they do not believe in. They are not expected to disregard any command as long as they are serving in the military.
The military structure has a massive effect on the life of a soldier. According to O’Brien (74), in the military, there are ranks, and in each rank, there are responsibilities one is expected of. This means that at one moment, one would be forced to receive orders and issue them to junior officers or execute them as may be necessary. This makes it very difficult for an individual to lead normal lives. This is so because the military structure has instilled in them the art of working with orders. When they are not receiving orders, then they issue it to people, they consider inferior to them. This affects their normal life, including the way in which they handle their family affairs.
The normal life of a soldier, especially those who have gone to war in volatile regions such as the Vietnam region during the Vietnam War, is characterized by violence. They witness people killing others, or they participate in the killings. They see their friends die at war in violent attacks from the enemy. They would also organize and execute violent retaliatory attacks on the enemy camps that would lead to massive loss of lives of serious injuries. Sometimes the casualties would be the innocent civilians who were not participating in the war.
This would become so common to them that they would consider violence a common thing in society. Although most of the soldiers have successfully managed to restrain from engaging in violent acts when provoked outside the battlefields, some have committed violent offenses against their friends, family members, and other members of the society because of various reasons. According to Dollar (98), the violent acts that sometimes soldiers engage in would haunt them, making them very violent even when the violence is undesirable.
The physical conditions of being a soldier
The physical condition of being a soldier also makes one become unique from other members of society. Only a small fraction of the society members engage in physical exercise on a regular basis. However, soldiers engage in daily physical exercise that makes their physical body fit. What makes them unique from other normal gym-goers is that soldiers are sometimes forced to spend several days or even weeks in the bush, deserts, or other hostile locations all over the world. They have to endure such gruesome conditions, making them physically unique from other members of society. As a soldier, they have no option but to physically adapt to such condition for the sake of one’s country.
One’s relationship with the community one “defends” in war
The constant war that one has to fight for his or her country makes him, or she develop a unique relationship with the community he or she defends in the war. Unlike a civilian who would want to look at other members of the society in terms of their political affiliations, religious beliefs, ethnic origin or any other demographical factors, a soldier is always expected to view all the citizen of his or her country as important people worth protecting. The constant reminder that every member of the society is important and the fact that they spend long hours in the field fighting for their rights creates a close relationship between a soldier and his community. He or she develops a feeling that he has the responsibility to protect everyone.
Dollar, Kent. Soldiers of the Cross: Confederate Soldier-Christians and the Impact of War on Their Faith. Macon, Ga: Mercer Univ. Press, 2005. Print.
Heberle, Mark. A Trauma Artist: Tim O’brien and the Fiction of Vietnam. Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 2001. Print.
O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Print.
“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien Literature Analysis Essay (Critical Writing)
Tim O’Brien conveys various messages concerning the experiences of soldiers in the Vietnam War through storytelling. He brings out the aspect of emotional burdens that the soldiers draw from the war. Soldiers who survive the war bear confusion, grief, and guilt.
Confusion and grief engulf Norman Bowker that he drives pointlessly around his hometown lake to write a letter to O’Brien explicating how the war took away his life (150). Bowker hangs himself in a YMCA. Bowker grapples with the emotional burdens on his own that he ends up committing suicide. O’Brien feels that sharing his stories through writing keeps him from suffering emotional torture (151).
O’Brien also conveys the message of social obligation. The author shows that the men went to war majorly because of social obligation. This obligation arose from assumed pressures from the broader society and nuclear relations. Norman, for example, states in a letter to O’Brien that he, like other soldiers, went to fight because of his obligation to society.
Although he won seven medals, Norman felt guilty after the war that he did not receive the Silver Star (147). He perceives the failure to receive the Silver Star as a disappointment to his hometown and his father.
The motifs in the story include loneliness and isolation, vague morality, and storytelling. The author repeatedly stresses the effect of isolation and loneliness on the soldiers by showing that insecurity and worries can be more precarious than the real war. Loneliness continues to engulf in the lives of the soldiers long after the end of the war.
O’Brien regrets his earlier decision to join what he now refers to as the “wrong war” (152). Norman Bowker is totally isolated because there is no one to console him (147). O’Brien observes that he would have had a similar ending to that of Norman if he had not been writing to keep busy (191).
The author demonstrates that war marginalizes moral boundaries. War makes it impossible to explain the harsh killing of innocent souls on both sides. The men fail to apprehend the basis for these brutal encounters. Thus, they point out the irony as a way of confronting their emotional pain. Mitchell Saunders and O’Brien use irony to stress the real immorality of the killings. The exposure of the soldiers to these horrors affects their perceptions of right and wrong.
Jimmy Cross blames himself for the death of Kiowa and writes to Kiowa’s father to apologize (161). O’Brien is also utterly affected by the war that he substitutes his peace-loving character with a hard and callous willingness to cause harm to others (191).
Azar tries to confront the emotional pain that Kiowa’s death causes him by joking that the dead man is only eating shit (158). The paradoxical lesson that the soldiers draw from their encounters is that war is immoral. O’Brien feels Warfare is capricious and vague because it drives human beings into severe challenges without clear solutions.
The author also views stories as the best way for listeners and tellers to grapple with the past collectively and share otherwise incomprehensible encounters. He demonstrates that storytelling is not only a survival tool for soldiers experiencing confusing emotions as a result of the war but also a communication mechanism throughout life. The different storytellers in the book, such as Norman Bowker, in addition to O’Brien, use stories to bring out the profound horrible truths of war.
‘The Things They Carried’ by Tim O’Brien Essay
‘The Things They Carried’ by Tim O’Brien repeatedly lists specific tangible objects that soldiers carried during the Vietnam War in the Than Khe locality. Additionally, the author documents the heaviness of the objects to underscore the physical items the soldiers carried. At the beginning, the narration seems to be simple regarding the objects a legion of soldiers carried during the war. The narration actually focuses on the demise of one of the legion members and the horrifying conditions in Than Khe.
Through repetitive documentation of the tangible objects carried by the soldiers, the author opens a leeway to allow him stress on the heaviness of the intangible items. This strategy allows the speaker to describe the battle experience. It also makes the speaker to deliberate on the very emotive issues.
The intangible is the mental impact of war. Besides, the intangible created burden in the minds and hearts of the soldiers. O’Brien’s story “The Things They Carried” demonstrates how the author utilizes conventional repetitive form of things carried to treat the unconventional story subject of the impact of war on soldiers.
When O’Brien opens his story, he lays foundation for the story’s central themes of recollection, imagination and the opportunities for psychological escape offered by the powers arising from the effects of engaging in armed combat. For instance, as Lieutenant Cross goes through the demanding daily activities of war duty, he is mentally occupied by Martha.
Fundamentally, as he relives the moments with Martha, he not only remembers the memories but also imagines how a passionate camping expedition into the White Mountains would be like (O’Brien 1001). The author presents these desires by Cross as “pretending”. In this context, “pretending” emerges as a form of storytelling. He is actually narrating to himself. The author emphasizes on the significance of Cross’s actions by underscoring the items he had. These included Martha’s mails and picture.
Upon introducing the characters, the author gives miniature details of the items soldiers carried to foreshadow the physical and psychological baggage soldiers have to contend with in their line of duty.
However, it is imperative to note these items and extend specific attention to the details. The details foreshadow the central narratives that cover the novel. The technique O’Brien uses for listing the items the platoons carried simultaneously functions to generate completer fusions of the characters. By extension, the approach makes the characters appear to be very concrete to the audience.
O’Brien develops his story by discussing the objects carried by the platoons as everyday items that a soldier carries. These are the objects that made life in Vietnam more tolerable for each of the platoon members. The initial list of items included munching gum, roll-ups, Kool-Aid and cigarette lighters. Pound cake, canned peaches and extra hygiene supplies are also included (O’Brien 1002).
The letters Cross carried are also documented. Majority of these items are non-soldierly. They are effortlessly deliberated by the author deprived of any demanding emotional issues. Ted Lavender, the deceased soldier, is indicated briefly while listing the items. Lavender was terrified and hence carried sedatives. At this point, it is only mentioned that he was blasted in the skull in mid-April. This further prepares the audience for the emotional part of the story. In the list, this is scarcely mentioned.
The military items mentioned in the list are meant to demonstrate the baggage that the platoons carried. O’Brien gives the weight of each military item. He mentions strengthened helmets weighing 5. They also had facings and disguise cover. The boots they wore weighed 2.1 pounds. Fatigue jackets and trousers further added to the weight.
At the end of the list, Lavender’s demise is briefly mentioned again. This comes in terms of how his corpse enfolded in a rain poncho. Each of the men carried one. It is at this point that the narrator summons relative courage to narrate the Vietnam experience. At the beginning, the narrator appears to be working up bravely to talk about the experience. The narrator states that Lavender was blasted in the head, carried across a paddy, placed in a military craft and flown away (O’Brien 1003).
The psychological and physical weight experienced by soldiers is demonstrated in the third paragraph. The narrator appears to be regretting about speaking of issues concerning Lavender’s demise. He swiftly goes back to simpler things. Instead of giving details about the death of Lavender, the narrator speaks about the list of objects. The narrator starts by describing Cross’s obsession with Martha. Upon elucidating more of the imaginations possessing Cross, the storyteller goes back to list objects that are more soldierly.
The listing encompasses weaponry of diverse types and their respective weights. It is essentially a non-passionate list for most part. This is to signify that the narrator probably wanted to escape the reality of the experiences of war. The narrator was no longer burdened with physical baggage hence would comfortably talk about it. On the other hand, the psychological impact of the war was still in the mind of the narrator hence chose to talk about the physical baggage.
By talking about the non-emotive portion of the war, the storyteller’s emotive magnitude is reduced. He talks about guns, binoculars, code books, magazines and grenade launchers. The emotions of the narrator returns when he talks about the average weight that each soldier was expected to carry. When the narrator mentions about the weight carried by Lavender, he again mentions that Lavender was scared. He states that when Lavender went down, he was under exceptional weight.
The narrator appears to suggest that Lavender was not only overburdened with physical weight but also psychological baggage experienced by soldiers at war time. The narrator’s emotions are triggered. He narrates what happened after he was shot. Unexpectedly, the listing of items stops. He speaks of how soldiers feel about death. Among the most notable is the narration involving Cross.
That is, Cross’s thoughts and guilt about Lavender’s death reflect on the guilt fellow troop members have to contend with when one of them dies. Cross feels that Lavender’s death was as a result of his mental obsession with Martha (O’Brien 1005).
The narrator relists the items that seem to be focusing on him. The entire situation is more emotive while reflecting on the baggage they had to endure emotionally and psychologically. The weaponry is now termed as ‘a means of killing or staying alive.’ The listing is brief. The narrator hastily goes into discussing Cross’s preoccupation with Martha. The narrator sought to take his mind away from the battle. The next listing is about the items they had, depending on the kind of mission.
The situations and conditions of war are now given more details. This results in the narrator giving more details regarding Lavender’s death at length. He has gathered enough courage to the point that he can now narrate the entire incident without seeking emotional relief in listing the items. He details Cross’s fantasies at length.
The narration is disturbing when one learns that Cross was not psychologically present at a very critical time. Despite having stated that Cross was guilty of Lavender’s death, it is now clear to the reader why this was the case (O’Brien 1006).
So far, the storyteller has spoken about the difficult topic about the baggage soldiers have to contend with physically and emotionally. He starts one more list to ease up. The list is simple and devoid of details. Hastily, the listing turns out negative. The impact of the items they were carrying is sad, traumatic and extremely negative. There was tedious marching, execution of appalling missions without care and torching of entire villages. Other soldiers of the legion were now involved in pondering about Lavender’s demise.
The emotions are let loose to a point of no-return. Listing is no longer part of the remainder of the narration. The things that they carried are no longer actual items. Majority is contemplations, moods and insolences that individuals had in Vietnam. They carried all the psychological baggage of soldiers who may die in the war including sorrow, fear and love among others. He speaks freely regarding the inner and mental baggage the troops carried (O’Brien 1008).
The listing used by the author presents more than life of soldiers during the Vietnam War. The list assists the narrator to talk about a distressing narrative a little easier. He uses the list to shape his contemplations and enter into a traumatic subject. As the narrative develops, the physical listing decreases. However, the emotional content increases as he gathers more courage to speak about the horrific events that took place
O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried, Back Bay, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990. Print.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien – Literature Analysis Essay
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is a story about the war in Vietnam presented from the point of view of simple soldiers who are regarded as adolescents despite the fact that they are only 19. Reading this story one may understand what war meant for those boys who used to be always at home, to play with their friends, go out dating with girls, who used to live careless lives; now they appeared in dangerous situations which they feel helpless about.
The story is full of symbols which intensify the impression from reading the book. The very title of this piece of writing is symbolic which is going to be considered in detail. As it has been mentioned, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is full of different symbols which help understand the full meaning of the story along with the significance of the title and its impact on the vision of the piece of writing.
First of all, the symbolism of the title should be discussed. The Things They Carried in the Tim O’Brien’s story is the title which depicts the very idea of the plot. The story describes the life of soldiers who are taken from their ordinary lives to the war. The title paves the way to the discussion.
The main idea of the title is fully understood when one reads the story up to the end, when one plunges into the world of solders’ discussions, memories, the things they carried with them and the way those things helped the reader understand the inner world of every soldier. Leaving behind the discussion of the things as objects, it should be stated that along with those objects each soldier experienced a lot of other ‘things” like emotions.
Soldiers’ lives discussed in the story are complicated due to the fact that these soldiers used to be ordinary kids with no responsibility bearing for others. Fear, pain, remorse and similar feelings are part and parcel of each soldier who participates in the war. Therefore, using the word “things” in the title of the story, the author means not only the objects which are present in the pocket of each soldier, what the author really means are the feelings and emotions soldiers have to suffer while at war.
It should be mentioned that the feelings perfectly fit the story telling, however. It seems that the author tries to tell the readers that the things soldiers carry tell much about their personalities, their past and present lives, about their identities, etc. The symbolic meaning of the title helps understand the theme and the purpose of the story which is really important in getting the author’s idea.
Turning to the discussion of the very things the soldiers carry as the symbolic issues, it should be mentioned that each of the soldiers carries both things that are similar for all and their personal objects which are often unseen to others. The similar objects at the war are their guns and the hope to stay alive and come back home to their beloved, parents, friends. Protective gears are also the symbols of their hope.
The author discusses the armory in detail. Depending on the objects and things carried by the soldiers, their positions may be understood, “what they carried was partly a function of rank, partly of field specialty” (Tim O’Brien 5). The lieutenant carried “a compass, maps, code books, binoculars and a.45 caliber pistol” (Tim O’Brien 5). However, after this statement, the author states that he also carries “a strobe light and the responsibility for the lives of his men” (Tim O’Brien 5).
Medic carried “a canvas satchel filled with morphine and plasma and malaria tables and surgical tape… and the things the medic must carry” (Tim O’Brien 5). There are many similar descriptions in the book where the author points out the responsibilities of the soldiers via the objects they have to carry with them.
The things people carry are those which will help each of them to survive during the war (“The Things They Carried” 56). It becomes obvious if one looks at the book’s characters, their needs and perception of the surrounding reality from different angles.
The things soldiers carry in their hands and in their minds symbolize the war as the effect and its consequences for each soldier as the result. Performing its duties, each soldier has to follow the tasks he/she is assigned. Each person has its own place and destiny. This is exactly what the author wants to say.
Having one’s own place in this life, people are to perform specific functions and the inability to do them leads to certain consequences. The result of Cross’s inattentiveness is the remorse because of the death of one of his soldiers. Therefore, the author wants to say that everything is in the hands of a person.
Such notions as duty, God, and country are inevitable and invisible items which help soldiers remain people at the war. Some parts in the text dwell upon the cruelty and unseen violence. Trying to imagine the war the reader sees murders which can bring nothing but sorrows and grief. What is more, showing the uselessness of this Vietnam War and its difference with the World War II, the author states, “They moved like mules.
By daylight they took sniper fire, at night they were mortared, but it was not battle, it was just the endless march, village to village, without purpose, nothing won or lost. They marched for the sake of the march” (Tim O’Brien 14).
The absence of any purpose or idea, the monotony of the actions which seem to be useless are part and parcel of the war life and no one knows when it will end, no one understands what it is all for and about. 19 years old adolescents fighting at war (those who were kinds yesterday) are shocked by the cruelty of the it. The author decides to take19 year old soldiers not by chance, he wants to underline the uselessness of the wars, their devastating nature and absence of any sense.
The death of a young Vietnamese soldier is Jimmy Cross’s failure and mistake because he is guilty of violating his responsibilities. Dreaming about Martha, Cross forgets about war operation which causes Ted Lavender’s death. Jimmy Cross blames himself because during the military operation, instead of participating in the battle, he is reading Martha’s letters remembering his life before the war. Ted’s death is a symbol of the feeling of guilt for the actions and deaths that happen during the war.
At the same time, if to look at the situation from another angle, Cross is not guilty of the war, of all violence and deaths which happen there (Kaplan 48). No one is guilty except for those who start wars but never take part in them. Still, the feeling of guilt follows all the soldiers at the war who happen to be near those who die.
The author makes Cross guilty of the death of that man. Still, the main idea of the symbol is to show that the whole humanity is guilty in wars and deaths. The symbol makes one think about the reasons some people die when they do not want to; others do not care about their lives at all but they remain alive, and others like Cross, are bothered about their personal problems.
The feeling of guilt is very important at the war as it means that a person has not lost the qualities of a human being. Frankly speaking, it is easy to lose traits of a personality when all around are killing; the author shows that it is possible to conserve the guilt and other human qualities despite everything.
Kathleen in her novel aims at depicting the reader who forms personal point of view. O’Brien’s daughter Kathleen listens to the stories of her father, and responds to them expressing her personal opinions. It seems that the author tries to guess the reaction of the reader and this is exactly what Kathleen is there for.
When O’Brien tells a story about a killed Vietnam soldier, he changes the story not to hurt a vulnerable young daughter. In this way the author tries to show that his story may be presented to a large scope of audience, the lecture should just depict the information from another angle to make sure that impressive people get it in different way.
Therefore, it may be considered that the significance of Kathleen as the symbolic representation of the reader is to show that each story may be told to the wide audience, it is just important to make sure that the issue or the fact offered for consideration forms the correct point of view (Smith 16). One more reason for creating the image of Kathleen is the presentation of the gap in communication between the teller and the reader.
No matter how clear the author of the story tries to present the facts and explain the reasons for his actions, the reader will always have different point of view and will not always have an opportunity to understand why the character has acted in this or that way (Calloway 251). Kathleen is able to understand most of the actions committed by O’Brien at the war, still, she cannot get some of them; this issue creates a gap between the daughter and her father in the story; or the reader and the author of the book as a symbolic interpretation.
Linda seems to be an ordinary character presented in the story with the purpose of discussion of the author’s past. However, this girl who died of a brain tumor in the fifth grade, is a symbol of the author’s grief and pain which support a person who experiences death of close to him people. Remembering the dead soldier, we cannot say that these two characters symbolize the same.
Linda is a symbol of human confusion and sadness which surround those who have to survive and overcome the death of a relative. Linda is not just the memory of a girl who used to know the author (Blyn 189). She is the symbol of the feelings all people suffer from when one of their precious people passes away. Linda is immortalized in the story to show that after people die we are unable to forget them and they live in our hearts and memories for ever.
Therefore, one may summarize that the story The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is full of different symbols which may be interpreted in different ways. However, having read the story up to the end, one understands that each character, each event is presented in the novel not randomly, not by chance, everything is done on purpose. The whole story suggests that people we meet, the events which occur to with us happen not accidentally.
The things the soldiers possess in the novel, the feelings they experience at the war, other characters present are aimed at reflecting various symbols which help the author to make sure that each line makes a reader think about their lives, people, values surrounding them. The story is about ordinary people like everyone of us; when reading it each one may see him/herself or his/her friends through the prism of the events in the story. The feelings highlighted in the novel are universal, that is why the readers perceive the story as something personal.
“The Things They Carried.” MHQ: Quarterly Journal of Military History 24.2 (2012): 56. Print.
Blyn, Robin. “O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.” Explicator 61.3 (2003): 189. Print.
Calloway, Catherine. “How To Tell A True War Story’: Metafiction in The Things They Carried.” Critique 36.4 (1995): 249. Print.
Kaplan, Steven. “The Undying Uncertainty Of The Narrator In Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.” Critique 35.1 (1993): 43. Print.
O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. Print.
Smith, Jack. “The things he carries: For Tim O’Brien, the Vietnam war has remained a crucible in his fiction, but the power of imagination and memory, and ‘our elusive interior worlds,’ loom large, too.” Writer 123.7 (2010): 16. Print.