The Things They Carried
The Things They Carried by Tim O’brien: the Character of Mary Anne Bell
Every person has their own story. In the novel “The Things They Carried”, by Tim O’Brien, O’Brien talks about his experiences of being thrown into the Vietnam war as a young innocent soldier and explains how not only did he become strongly affected by the war, but he was able to watch his fellow soldiers change into new people as well. Throughout the book Tim O’Brien talks about many characters and the way they affected him during their time in Vietnam.
One person that truly stood out to him was Mary Anne Bell. In the chapter “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”, Tim O’Brien talks about a young woman who came straight out of high school to stay with her boyfriend, Mark Fosie. Mark Fosie was a young soldier who planned to bring his girlfriend to Vietnam to stay with him, where he was serving in the war. Not only was Mary Anne Bell the only woman in this chapter, but she was also represented as a symbol of the effects of war on each and every single one of the soldiers. Even though she is only a young woman who traveled to visit her boyfriend, she becomes a way of symbolizing the themes of war and what it brings to the soldiers at this time. Mary Anne’s purpose in this chapter is to show the intermediary between the audience and the story being told so that the reader could understand the soldiers point of view of America. Mary Anne Bell is one of the most important characters in this story, due to the fact that she represents a crucial part of the war and how the war had affected many of our American soldiers.
In the beginning of the chapter “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”, we are introduced to Mary Anne Bell. Tim O’Brien finds out about her through a story that his comrade Bob “Rat” Kiley tells him and the rest of the soldiers stationed with them one night. Bob “Rat” Kiley is a platoons medic who served in the mountains of Chu Lai during the Vietnam war. Even though O’Brien explains how “Rat had a reputation for exaggeration and overstatement”, “Still, with this particular story, Rat never backed down. He claimed to have witnessed the incident with his own eyes, and I remember how upset he became one morning when Mitchell Sanders challenged him on its basic premise. ” Tim O’Brien explained. Rat Kiley tells the story of how a young soldier named Mark Fosie flies his girlfriend out to the mountains of Chu Lai, during the Vietnam war where he is stationed. When his girlfriend gets to their campsite, she is portrayed by the soldiers as a “very tall, big-boned blonde. At best, Rat said, she was seventeen years old, fresh out of Cleveland Heights Senior High. She had long white legs and blue eyes and a complexion like strawberry ice cream. Very friendly, too. ”
The first couple of days she would dress in her cut-off blue jeans and her black bathing suit top on the volleyball court, and at night she would dance to Rat Kiley’s portable tap deck. She was full of life and curious about the many things the war had brought. Soon enough she had learned a new language, was taught how to shoot a gun and even made Mark Fosie take her to town. “The war intrigued her. The land, too, and the mystery. ” When Mary Anne Bell started to learn the ways of life during war, there was no turning back for her. Throughout the first half of the story, Tim O’Brien portrays Mary Anne Bell as a very innocent and girly, young women, but as the audience reads deeper into the novel she starts to become something totally opposite of what she is first seen to be. “At the end of the second week, when four casualties came in, Mary Anne wasn’t afraid to get her hands bloody. At times, in fact, she seemed fascinated by it”. The longer Mary Anne stayed at the campsite with the soldiers, the more she started to fall in love with the way they were living out their lives. “The way she quickly fell into the habits of the bush. No cosmetics, no fingernail filing. She stopped wearing jewelry, cut her hair short and wrapped it in a dark green bandanna. Hygiene became a matter of small consequence”. As she starts to become more involved in the way of the war, she starts to change her morals and she starts to develop into a darker version of herself. When her boyfriend, Mark Fosie, see’s her becoming a less girly version of herself, he begins to rethink his decisions on why he had brought her to his station in the first place. Later in the novel, Mary Anne starts to join the green beret soldiers on their night ambushes and leaves Mark Fosie and the camp to follow the war.
At the end of the chapter, Mark Fosie hears Mary Anne’s voice singing a high pitched song alone deep in the woods. When he goes to look for her, he finds himself breaking into a dark, hidden hootch. “Thick and numbing, like an animal’s den, a mix of blood and scorched hair and excrement and the sweet-sour odor of moldering flesh — the stink of the kill. But that was not all. On a post at the rear of the hootch was the decayed head of a large black leopard; strips of yellow-brown skin dangled from the overhead rafters. And bones. Stacks of bones — all kinds. ” As Fosie had taken off to go look for Mary Anne, Rat Kiley had followed behind him with another soldier, just to see where he was running off to. As they had followed him into the hootch, they had found Mary Anne. “At the girl’s throat was a necklace of human tongues. Elongated and narrow, like pieces of blackened leather, the tongues were threaded along a length of copper wire, one overlapping the next, the tips curled upward as if caught in a final shrill syllable”. Even after being with the “greenies”, “one morning, all alone, Mary Anne walked off into the mountains and did not come back”. This woman was not the same woman who had came to Vietnam as a fresh high school graduate, she was now a cold blooded killer.
After reading the chapter “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”, the audience is able to watch Mary Anne Bell morphe into the new person she has become. One of the first symbols that Mary Anne symbolizes is the people living in America during the Vietnam war. The soldiers families that were living in America did not experience the war first hand, but they did see it on newspapers, television and the stories the soldiers told when they came back from the war. When Mary Anne first showed up to Vietnam, she was innocent and blinded by what the war held, which relates to America’s “innocence” and lack of knowledge of how the war was for the soldiers. Another thing that Mary Anne symbolizes is the fact that Americans seem to feel entitled to everything. Tim O’Brien explains earlier in the book that he finds no sense of the war and it just has to deal with politics. America feels so entitled to taking land that they had drafted young, purely innocent men that were just thrown into the war to fight a battle that was not theirs. The way that Mary Anne symbolizes this is when she arrives at the war, she feels safe anywhere. Also, at the end of the chapter Mary Anne tells Mark Fosie “”You’re in a place, ” Mary Anne said softly, “where you do not belong. ” She moved her hand in a gesture that encompassed not just the hootch but everything around it, the entire war, the mountains, the mean little villages, the trails and trees and rivers and deep misted-over valleys”.
The last thing Mary Anne represents is the way the war could completely change something so innocent into a cold hearted soldier. In the beginning she was a sweet, young woman who was bubbly and full of laughter but sooner or later she would turn into the cold blooded killer who would get lost and live her life within the jungle. She portrays what a lot of our soldiers went through during the war. Her necklace of human tongues and her loss of innocence represents death of our own soldiers within the war and how once you go to war, your life is changed forever.
Using Mary Anne as a symbol of the war helps the audience to relate to the story. Mary Anne Bell is one of the most important characters throughout this novel. She is used as a symbol of America throughout the chapter, which helps the audience gain knowledge of how America perceived the war and how the soldiers viewed America at this time. The way she morphed into a completely different person a the end of the chapter showed how quick our soldiers were being changed due to the bloodshed war. You don’t know how things can affect you until you are experiencing them first handedly.
Summary of the Things They Carried Chapter 9, Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong
We all know true war stories cannot be trusted and taken account of, the story of Mary Anne was not a trustworthy story either. Months after her escape into the wilderness Mary Anne had a rendezvous with Fossie and their confrontation was not a small one which could be just digested easily but was a very powerful one filled with emotions. Mary Anne moved swiftly through the dark shadows of the the jungles of Nam. The darkness of the jungle was forcing her into revealing all her inner darkness and mysteries to the winds. But, she couldn’t trust anyone or anything, not even the trees because the trees would reveal her secrets to the wind. With American blood running through her veins, the only fear in her mind was her growing addiction to Vietnam. After her escape from the basecamp she became a part of the ‘Greenies’. She fought not for the America but for Vietnam. She had grown close to the land, as her intimate relationship with the land was symbiotic since both of them were nurturing each other. As she walked along the moist land she felt the soft stroke of Vietnam against her strawberry blonde complexion increasing her passion for the country. As her sarong rubbed past the leaves of the trees, they flushed her with great vigour. Anyone who was a threat to her land would have to face her indignation.
Her story makes me squirm everytime, it goes as follows: A man goes missing. He starts walking and out of the blue starts hearing aberrant noises like those if a tear gas rolls across his body and a knife is against his back. Men gyrating in sandals among the trees and vapours rising from the rice paddies. He felt like death was approaching him. He finally gives up and begins shooting in the air and at the trees till he completely destroys it. The smoke gets mixed with the fog. He can’t take it anymore, and right then he shot a bullet which went right through his head BANG! The boy lay dead on the land with smoke coming out from the gun. Just then Mary Anne walks in and sits next to the dead boy kissing him on his forehead with a smirk on her face. Namby-pamby, she shouted. She took pride in her oath and went on a rampage killing soldiers as if she were knocking off bowling pins. One evening, Mark Fossie and Eddie Diamond went out to patrol the perimeter of Thai Binh. The colour of the sky changed from deep orange to bright red, the air was mixed with the soot from the bombing and made it difficult to breathe. They moved east into the Chu Lai mountains. Fossie felt too exhausted to move so they decided to take a break but Eddie was too hyped to stay put so he started to move around even after Fossie warning him that they should ensure that they do not get seperated. Fossie knew Eddie was not the one to listen so Fossie had come prepared and had his Beretta M9 handy. The sound that followed was eerie and mysterious just like the night. Fossie looked straight and deep trying to locate Eddie. He followed the noise. As he moved forward he heard the voice much like a woman’s voice in a language that he could not understand. The sight that Fossie saw ahead left him bewildered. Fossie felt disgusted. Fossie saw ahead of him Mary Anne, resting on top of Eddie whose throat had been slit open by what looked like a butcher’s knife in layman terms. Blood was gushing out of Eddie’s throat and Mary Anne was sitting in the pool of his blood. Fossie could not digest what he just saw. Mary Anne stood there staring at Mark with a sharp piercing gaze. Her perfect silhouette walked towards Fossie in the darkness. Her necklace which was made of human tongue wobbled on her breasts. She stopped and took a whiff of the fresh human blood that blew along with the thin breeze. This was Fossie’s worst nightmare, she was no longer the blonde cooze but was a killer now. Mark could not stand still, he shivered and panicke, his face looked pale and his eyes were wide open in shock.
As Mary Anne moved closer, he moved away. Mary Anne motioned her hand trying to stop him as Fossie’s bony ass rubbed against the sooty rocks. She said, “Go back to the foxhole. You don’t belong outside the boundaries of the barbed wires and sandbags. You are not ready for the real world outside the basecamp. You think you have all the knowledge about war but you have no idea how zany and kooky war can be. It is chaotic but beautiful at the same time, it is filled with emotions but is also barbaric. There is no feeling like it.” Fosse just stood there flabbergasted. He didn’t know what to say or feel. But he knew one thing for sure, the sweet, blonde, bikini clad girl that he loved was long gone and the new one had no connection to him. “Girl, what happened to you?” asked Fossie. She looked at him with coldness and said, “Nam happened to me” “If that’s what you want, then that is what you get”, said Mark. He cocked his Beretta M9 pointed it towards the cooze but, she was gone with the wind. Fossie wanted to leave but his legs would not move. He felt like there was a huge rock on his chest. He now carried the burden of Eddie’s death on his shoulders. That very second he realised the true meaning of war. War is scary. War is dreadful. War is treacherous. War is hell. It rips you of all the humanity left in you, it makes you into a new person, a person you cannot relate to. It is a thick sooty sky of catastrophe.
Hypocrisy of War: “The Things They Carried”
The dangers of war far extend passed the physical repercussions of its battles. This is true in all aspects. As cluster bombs can make a habitat unlivable for decades to come, this is nothing compared to the emotional pain a soldier derives from guilt, fear, or anxiety. These feelings trump any tangible side effects of combat. This idea is beautifully conveyed in Tim O’Brien’s short narrative, “The Things They Carried. ” The story is centered around First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross’s conflict of being a good officer to his troops as he leads them through Vietnam. Every member of his battalion must physically carry plethora of different items to aid with their safety in every mission. And although the tangible items they carry seem obtusely heavy, it is virtually weightless in comparison to the countless emotional barriers that pile up as the story develops.
Tim O’Brien fixates on the dehumanization of the men, specifically three major issues the soldiers struggle with mentally and disputes that soldiers most effective method for a somewhat stable mind frame is through constantly escaping their realities. Fear caused by uncertainty, craving a normal life with love, and the ubiquitous facade of contentment are common traits of soldiers whose impact heavily exceeds any physical toll that is caused by the conflict.
Throughout, “The Things We Carried,” the author displays how the most prevalent hardships of every soldier are their doubt of returning home. This anticipation of egregious circumstances are so frequent to the men, that they inevitably go at great lengths to mentally escape the harsh realities around them. This idea is initially revealed through the protagonists’, Jimmy Cross, letters to his love at home Martha. As the letters go back and forth “she never mentioned the war, expect to say, Jimmy, take care of yourself” (426). As this quote doesn’t reveal much to the soldier’s hardships, it displays how no one wants to think about the repercussions of war. Even the people in a society who are involved in a war, would rather brush it off as nothing is happening. This is pertinent to note since nobody is acknowledging the war, the soldiers have no one to turn to for their problems except their fellow troubled man. This thought process of pushing negative aspects of life to the back of our heads inevitably leads to more uncertainty. Instead of dealing with the root of an issue the soldiers are forced to act as if everything is normal.
They do this through humor, and some resort to drugs, which exponentially grows their immeasurable trauma induced by fear; Furthermore, death is one of the leading causes of anxiety for the soldier. As the story continues the soldiers obsessively replay the death of a comrade Ted Lavender. They are not constantly thinking of his legacy or who he was, just the brevity of his death. Kiowa, an Indian-American soldier in Cross’s infantry is especially hurt by Lavenders death. As Kiowa tried not to think of his death, the author writes how “he was thinking about how fast it was, no drama, down and dead, and how it was hard to feel anything except surprised… Mostly he felt pleased to be alive”(437). Tim O’Brien does not include this commentary to display the soldiers as self-involved or greedy people.
Rather, he includes this narration to reveal the most adverse effect of war which is dehumanization. Kiowa cannot feel normal human emotions like empathy towards his fallen comrade but can only feel “pleased to be alive. ” Repeatedly, these soldiers are treated as bodies to carry out a specific mission. Where there is lack of focus on the individual and a fixation on the efforts of a group. With this thought process soldiers will stop seeing themselves as a person and rather as a cause. This causes a massive amount of worry based on the soldier’s uncertainty of safety. Thus, soldiers inevitably detach from their own self, which further creates a highly dysfunctional mental state that exceeds any physical outcome of war. Hence, we continually observe that literal fear of death succumbs all aspects of one’s life. And as this fear is to be expected, the detachment from oneself is one of the most appalling realities of war. Unlike the tangible repercussions of war, we are not able to simply move on from this through construction. These negative aspects of the damaged mindset of a soldier will never be fixed but continually prolonged until the individual is no longer able to breath.
Furthermore, fear caused by uncertainty is only one of the multitude of intangible problems faced by soldiers. When a war is declared, men are expected to put their lives on hold to fight for their nation. Tim O’Brien argues that a very large outcome of soldiers leaving their lives behind is their desire for an ordinary life, specifically a romantic life. This infatuation leads to men in battle not able to completely focus on their tasks at hand. Soldiers find themselves pondering at what their lives that could have been during the day, at night, and even in hazardous situations. This is mostly evident through Lieutenant Jimmy Cross’s long-distance relationship with Martha. The author makes it clear that no matter where the protagonist goes, his infatuation towards Martha regularly engrosses his thought process.
Martha is on his mind so much, that he finds it increasingly challenging to focus on his battle. It is pertinent to note that Jimmy Cross is the highest commanding officer. He must lead a troop of people through unknown terrain, not knowing if his battalion will live or die. And though his position requires him to be the person who is most involved mentally, even he cannot help but escape the cruelties of battle through his obsession over Martha. This idea of escaping reality is further shown when one of the protagonist’s men, Ted Lavender, is shot. Once the infantry handles his lifeless body, Cross cannot help but only think of “Martha’s smooth young face, thinking he loved her more than anything, more than his men, and now Ted Lavender was dead because he loved her so much and he could not stop thinking about her” (430). In most situations regarding death, we see the people surrounding the deceased to feel empathy and despondence. But just as Kiowa, Lieutenant Cross is only able to sympathize towards his own situation. It is ironic to note that with the soldiers fragmented mental health, they would probably need years of therapy before they are able to maintain a healthy relationship. After witnessing countless acts of violence, one becomes very numb to most trauma around them. Over time, these soldiers will keep on finding it more difficult relate with others, but their longing to connect with others will never be suppressed. So Cross continuing to escape his reality through his love for Martha isn’t selfish, but is a biological coping method that will keep his mind from fully detaching from his body.
Additionally, the author continues to display to the reader how witnessing horrible acts are a critical factor in how the men lose their humanity. When people serve in the armed forces in America, they are expected to pack everything up; leaving everything behind including family, friends, and mostly all aspects of life at home no matter how important it may be to them. As they leave their old ways soldiers are forced to adapt to new life in the army. Learning new ideals of group mentality over individuality, being given a set of skills to learn that can be the determination of life or death. These aspects of war life can change a person where instead of fixating on things they enjoy, one must adapt into an extremely responsible person, where their fellow man’s well being must always be everyone’s top priority. This suppression of emotions by staying brave for your fellow man can really damage a person’s psyche until the point of insanity. This idea is accurately captured through the narrator’s description of the soldiers in Vietnam. O’Brien writes that the soldiers “took up what others could no longer bear. . . [and that] They carried the land itself. They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it. . . they moved like mules” (435). The author includes this description to argue how impossible the plight of a soldier seems. The soldiers’ daily activities do not seem positive at all, rather the men serve as desensitized robots in line of duty. These were sympathetic humans that turned into literal killing machines. Also in battle succumbing to fear and anxiety would be their greatest pitfall. Therefore, these warriors must contain a facade of contentment to increase the chances of their survival. A person’s mind is very powerful, and the soldiers continue to distract themselves through humor to act as everything is normal. Cross and all of his men constantly engage in jokes that would be bad humor to a person in an average society. But in such treacherous situations, men will joke right after the death of their fellow brother in order to distract one’s mind from natural human emotions.
For example “They were afraid of dying but they were even more afraid to show it. They found jokes to tell. They were actors and the war came at them in 3-D. . . (Mentions ted lavenders death. ‘Cute’ said Henry Dobbins” (439). As one can see, the author deliberately writes how the soldiers were afraid of showing fear. Instead of having the characters mourn for the loss of Ted Lavender they are forced to hide any emotional response. It is tragic moments like these where the troopers need to brush off the violence with a joke. Acting as everything is fine and everyone is safe. This aspect of a soldier’s life is an added responsibility that causes too much strain mentally. Rather than being able to live their lives through the motions; soldiers must always be alert.
Continually keeping up their facade of contentment, until they are permanently damage. Hence, Tim O’Brien proves that humans can only take so much trauma until their mind and body naturally starts to cope. Specifically, people involved in armed conflicts continually escape the reality of war due to its plethora of stresses. As positive members of our society we must learn from history so we won’t repeat the actions of our forefathers. Societies today must focus on avoiding war at all cost because although we are able to construct over previous battle grounds, the mental plagues of the soldiers never cease to exist.
The Things They Carried Reading Response
“For the common soldier,” Tim O’Brien writes in “How to Tell a True War Story,” “war has the feel—the spiritual texture—of a great ghostly fog, thick and permanent. There is no clarity. Everything swirls. The old rules are no longer binding, the old truths no longer true” (O’Brien 78). O’Brien’s unique style, which blurs the lines between fact and fiction, is a central quality of his novel, The Things They Carried. There are many different techniques that Tim O’Brien uses to achieve this effect. One of them is depriving the story of any consistent flow or rhythm that the reader assume to be a plot. For example, characters such as Curt Lemon are killed and then later introduced, or the narrator undercuts what he has previously lead the reader to believe, as in the case of Norman Bowker’s suicide. A true war story is distinguishable “by the way it never seems to end. Not then, not ever” (O’Brien 72). None of the anecdotes in this novel demonstrate complete closure, except perhaps in the case where the character was killed. Even then, however, that particular loss had an impact upon the lives of the people who have survived. In this way, it becomes hard to think of this as a piece of fiction, as there is no apparent rising action, climax, or falling action. Even the end of the novel itself is indefinite and without resolution. Thus, Tim O’Brien gives his novel the appearance of a nonfiction memoir, when in reality, it is a work of fiction.
Another way that the author attempts to portray his work as a piece of nonfiction is by describing in detail the boring everyday life of a soldier. For example, Tim O’Brien starts off his story by listing all of the different items carried by soldiers in Vietnam. From various weapons to pictures of their loved ones, most of the items in this list are easily discussed without bringing up any emotion or uncertainty. Listing some of the weapons carried by soldiers, O’Brien enumerates, “At various times, in various situations, they carried M-14s and CAR-15s and Swedish Ks and grease guns and captured AK-47s and Chi-Coms and RPGs and Simonov carbines and black market Uzis and .38 caliber Smith & Wesson handguns and 66 mm LAWs and shotguns and silencers and blackjacks nd bayonets and C-4 plastic explosives” (O’Brien 7). By starting off the story with boring supply lists, the author seems to be establishing the idea of a nonfiction story early on. Later on in the story, O’Brien states, “In many cases a true war story cannot be believed. If you believe it, be skeptical. It’s a question of credibility. Often the crazy stuff is true and the normal stuff isn’t, because the normal stuff is necessary to make you believe the truly incredible craziness” (O’Brien 68). Here, O’Brien is letting the readers know that some of the boring details had to be fabricated and included in the story to make it more believable. In other words, Tim O’Brien attempts to portray fiction as nonfiction by loading the reader with long, monotonous lists.
Courage is the ability to do the right thing in the face of hardship. In his novel, The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien explores the true meaning of courage, as his characters struggle with the concept and reach some surprising conclusions. One example of courage we see in the novel is when Tim O’Brien is drafted to the army and faced with a decision: go to war, or escape to Canada. Looking back at the moral split he faced during this time in his life, O’Brien remembers, “My conscience told me to run, but some irrational and powerful force was resisting, like a weight pushing me toward the war. What it came down to, stupidly, was a sense of shame. Hot, stupid shame. I did not want people to think badly of me” (O’Brien 49). After his long hard struggle, Tim O’Brien finally decided to go to war because he was ashamed not to. Most people would think that this is cowardice, as they see courage as having the strength to face your fears and persevere despite hardship. However, what needs to be taken into account is the lack of any clear enemy or purpose that O’Brien can see to the war. He says himself in the story, “There were occasions, I believed when a nation was justified in using military force to achieve its ends, to stop a Hitler or some comparable evil, and I told myself that in such circumstances I would’ve willingly marched off to the battle. The problem, though, was that a draft board did not let you choose your war” (O’Brien 42). Consequently, I believe that Tim O’Brien did in fact display courage when he made the right choice and decided to go off blindly to a war that he knew nothing of, and did not care for.
Another example of courage we see in the novel is when Norman Bowker describes how he attempted to save Kiowa during the war. The night the platoon set up camp in a sewage field, they were hit with mortar fire. When the third round hit, Kiowa began screaming. Bowker saw Kiowa sink into the muck and grabbed him by the boot to pull him out. Describing this instance, Bowker remembers, “He pulled hard but Kiowa was gone, and then suddenly he felt himself going, too. The shit was in his nose and eyes. There were flares and mortar rounds, and the stink was everywhere – it was inside him, in his lungs – and he could no longer tolerate it. Not here, he thought. Not like this. He released Kiowa’s boot and watched it slide away” (O’Brien 143). I believe that courage should be measured by effort, not outcome, as sometimes our physical limitations can get in the way of our intentions. Norman Bowker tried to save Kiowa, but in the end, his body simply could not handle the task. However, despite not being able to save his friend, Bowker’s endeavours alone can be seen as acts of courage because he made the effort do the right thing in the face of hardship.
An outlier can be seen as a successful person who has accomplished extraordinary achievements that fall outside normal experience. Malcolm Gladwell argues that in order for one to become successful, he or she must be presented with a unique opportunity, and have the strength and ambition to seize it. It was taking advantage of these two things that made Bill Gates the outlier he is today. Therefore, in Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell uses Bill Gates as an extended example to illustrate and define who outliers are. The first way we can see Bill Gates as an ideal outlier is by taking a look at all of the opportunities that were presented to him. Opportunity number one was that he had access to a time-sharing terminal in 1968. Number two was that he was asked to check in on code at C-Cubed on weekends (and weeknights). Number three was that Gates found out about ISI, and they needed someone to check in on their payroll software. Number four was that Gates happened to live within walking distance of the University of Washington, where he found free computer time. And number five was that when presented with a job by TRW, Gates was allowed to spend his spring term off campus writing code. In Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell explains that, “ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world class expert” (Gladwell 40). By the time Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to try his hand at his own software company, he already had way more than ten thousand hours of practice under his belt, thus making him a perfect example of one who was presented with opportunity and made the best of it. Discussing his unique experience with computer software, Gates remarks, “I had a better exposure to software development at a young age than I think anyone did in that period of time, and all because of an incredibly lucky series of events” (Gladwell 55).
Furthermore, the second way Bill Gates can be seen as an ideal outlier is by his work ethic, as “the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder” (Gladwell 39). All the opportunities Gates had would have amounted to nothing if he didn’t have the ambition to seize them. Fortunately, he did. Discussing his love for computer programming, “‘It was my obsession,’ Gates says of his early high school years. ‘I skipped athletics. I went up there at night. We were programming on weekends. It would be a rare week that we wouldn’t get twenty or thirty hours in’” (Gladwell 52). By spending his early morning and late nights on a computer, Bill Gates was able to complete the ten thousand hours of practice he required, and make sure that his opportunity was not wasted. In Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell describes, “Outliers are those who have been given opportunities – and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them” (Gladwell 267). Because he fits this mold so perfectly, Bill Gates has been used by Malcolm Gladwell as an extended example of what an outlier is.
In Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell argues that cultural legacy is one of the many hidden advantages that allow some people to make sense of the world in ways others cannot. Furthermore, one aspect of cultural legacy that can allow some people to progress more than others is that of meaningful work. Meaningful work is work where there is a direct relationship between effort and reward: the more you work, the more you get in return. I believe that meaningful work is what motivates one to progress, or improve themselves, and is thus a key ingredient to success. In the novel, this can be seen by Louis Borgenicht, a Jewish immigrant that started a successful clothing business in 1890s New York. Unlike other immigrants at the time, the Jews that came to America had some sort of occupational skill. Borgenicht’s skill was his knowledge of the clothing industry. This allowed him to start his own business, unlike other immigrants, who just worked as laborers. Describing Borgenicht’s business, Gladwell writes, “He was his own boss. He was responsible for his own decisions and direction. His work was complex: it engaged his mind and imagination. And in his work, there was a relationship between effort and reward: the longer he and regina stayed up at night sewing aprons, the more money they made the next day in the streets” (Gladwell 149). The author goes on to explain that it is the connection between effort and reward that makes work satisfying, and therefore meaningful. Although it was his knowledge of the industry that allowed Borgenicht to start his business, it was meaningful work that allowed his business to grow and prosper. Because his work satisfied him, Borgenicht was able to stay motivated enough to persevere despite hardship. In the end, that was how he eventually succeeded.
Another example of meaningful work we can see in Outliers: The Story of Success is the work of a rice farmer. Compared to other types of farming, rice farming is very difficult and tedious work. Rice farmers in China don’t have machines and technology. Instead, they must become smarter about how they divide their time and resources. They get up early in the morning, and spend their days checking water levels, cleaning claypans, and making sure they use every inch of their land. Even during the dry season, rice farmers busy themselves by repairing their rice paddies, or making bamboo hat and baskets to sell in the market. Commenting on their work ethic, Malcolm Gladwell writes, “Throughout history, not surprisingly, the people who grow rice have always worked harder than almost any other kind of farmer” (Gladwell 233). The reason why they can work so hard is because their work is meaningful to them. Describing the work of the rice farmer, Gladwell writes, “It was a lot like the garment work done by the Jewish immigrants to New York. It was meaningful. First of all, there is a clear relationship in rice farming between effort and reward. The harder you work in a rice field, the more it yields” (Gladwell 236). Just like it did for Borgenicht, the relationship between effort and reward is what allows rice farmers to continue their hard work despite its difficulty. The fact that their work is meaningful means that they enjoy their work, and thus it is done more easily. To conclude, I agree with Malcolm Gladwell in the fact that meaningful work is a part of cultural legacy that allows some people to progress more than others. This is because, as we can see in the novel, meaningful work is what allowed Jewish garment makers and Chinese rice farmers to persevere and succeed in their work despite the hardships they faced.
Common and Different in “The Things They Carried” and “The Woman Warrior” Novels
The compelling, yet haunting novel by Tim O’Brien “The Things They Carried” has many parallels and contrasts to multiple elements of the culture filled text by Maxine Hong Kingston “The Woman Warrior” including writing style, targeted audience, and perspective. Both novels, “The Things They Carried” and “The Woman Warrior”, tell the journey of self discovery, but the perspective depends on storytelling, setting, and their use of character analysis to develop the plot.
Storytelling ties into the development of a theme in which both authors included. The illustrated theme portrays a blur between reality and fantasy. For O’Brien, if it feels true he will tell it rather than if it occurred. He writes to the characters, “This book is lovingly dedicated to the men of Alpha Company, and in particular to Jimmy Cross…and Kiowa. (O’Brien, 1990, p.)” He dedicates the book to the nonexistent characters: Rat, Kiowa, and Sanders. This deceives the readers into thinking each character is real. Possibly, he intended to reach out to the all the similar people of the world that relate to Cross and Rat to add influence and truth. The most ideal path for him is to convey his Vietnam involvement through “true stories” not through what truthfully happened. He developed this theme because truthful stories makes it harder to connect with the readers regarding the war. For Kingston, the more she reflects on memory the more the readers understand that the truth depends on who is recounting the story.
Kingston (1976) states the following: Chinese-Americans, when you try to understand what things in you are Chinese, how do you separate what is peculiar to childhood, to poverty, insanities, one family, your mother who marked your growing with stories, from what is Chinese? What is Chinese tradition and what is the movies? (p.) She is filled with questions regarding Chinese character in America. She demonstrates through her fable stories that fantasy plays a major role in the real world.
Storytelling in “The Things They Carried” consists of many linking stories. O’Brien reveals his childhood, war experiences, and memories. His distinct storytelling is found throughout the text but is epitomized in two different manners when he is seen as the author and as the protagonist characterizing himself. Not only did he present himself twice with the same name, but he exhibits fiction and actuality by composing stories about the past to help the readers comprehend it better.
Storytelling in “The Woman Warrior” consists of stories about her life, family, and cultural myths. Her style of writing brings questions to the table because she tells multiple versions of the same story without revealing a clear truth. Both novels assemble stories on one another that reflect on themselves, community, and memories. O’Brien incorporates his unique tone leaving the readers on edge as he faces obstacles that bring out internal reflection.
Similarly, Kingston connects stories based on personal life experiences, community, and cultural myths. O’Brien displays pieces of his life starting from meeting his childhood lover to war experiences to reviewing his past with his daughter. Just as Kingston tells many stories starting from lessons learned as a child to relative discoveries to unbelievable Chinese anecdotes. Her nontraditional storytelling creates an itching desire for answers while smoothly incorporating new storyline outlets as it goes along. The two novels challenge the readers to believe in who they are and to serve a purpose by strengthening community, overcoming weakness, and finding your identity. This is strikingly displayed when Kingston (1976) says: Chinese-Americans, when you try to understand what things in you are Chinese, how do you separate what is peculiar to childhood, to poverty, insanities, one family, your mother who marked your growing with stories, from what is Chinese? What is Chinese tradition and what is the movies?(p.) This quote gives a vivid picture of Kingston struggling with the idea of Chinese culture in America. In addition, O’Brien (1990) says, “They carry the common secret of cowardice barely restrained, the instinct to run or freeze or hide, and in many respects this was the heaviest burden of all.” (p.) This conveys that everyone experiences weakness whether you’re a soldier or a normal citizen. Both authors included language devices such as allegory, symbolism, and tone. They share the common device of symbolism. His use of symbolism is clear in the chapter “Speaking of Courage” when Bowker is unable to express his true emotions about Kiowa.
O’Brien (1990) says in the following: [Bowker] could not talk about it and never would. The evening was smooth and warm. If it had been possible, which it wasn’t, he would have explained how his friend Kiowa slipped away that night beneath the dark swampy field. He was folded in with the war; he was part of the waste.(p.) Bowker cannot recall any experiences or memories from war symbolizing symptoms of PTSD. Just as Kingston includes symbolism by referencing the foreigners to ghost. Kingston (1976) explains “The Japanese, though “little,” were not ghosts, the only foreigners considered not ghosts by the Chinese” (p.). Her use of ghosts can teach the readers to overcome fear and whatever it is that is haunting. Each book has their own way of telling a story based on tone, familial experiences, and audience. O’Brien’s tone tends to jump around from serious to nostalgic. He describes each subject with complete knowledge and confidence. Not only does O’Brien use symbolism, but he includes allegories within his stories to catch the reader’s attention.
O’Brien (1990) states “The truth,” Norman Bowker would’ve said, “is I let the guy go”(p.). This represents how all the soldiers felt responsible for Kiowa’s death but in reality it was just universal. O’Briens writing style challenges the readers because it is unpredictable, thought-provoking, and filled with heartfelt memories. As Kingston’s technique grabs the reader’s attention because it is contradicting, complex, and abounding with family myths. She is more intimate in the text rather than knowledgeable. Kingston (1976) utilizes similes throughout the novel in ways such as “I…walked about like a guest”(p.). She chose this language because she wanted to provide a vivid illustration for the readers.
According to Kingston (1976): To make my walking life American-normal, I turn on the lights before anything untoward makes appearance. I push the deformed into my dreams, which are in Chinese, the language of impossible stories.(p.) This quote emphasizes the culture of America and China and how nervous she was to begin her new life compared to what she was accustomed to.
“The Things They Carried” takes place in two areas: the homeland of the soldiers and the Vietnam jungle. It is a group of many stories about the lives of soldiers during 1990. The readers can experience the malicious Vietnam jungle filled with booby traps, gun fire shots, and the roaring sounds of explosions. “The Woman Warrior” alternates settings between a small village in China and America. This time is around 1924-1975 to the moment Kingston’s dad departs.
Both novels have more than one location as the setting and refer to the past and present as the story progresses. O’Brien portrays a balance between the soldier’s homeland and the Vietnam jungle. This balance is to enhance the crawling fear upon the soldiers as they attempt to carry things through war. Just as Kingston travels back and forth in space and time between China and America. Both share personal stories that alternate character usage, setting, and time. For example, in the beginning of the book he shares old memories of the love of his life, Martha. He gives a glimpse of his past, while he was young and living in his hometown by sharing his thoughts and memories of Martha. O’brien also digs deep into other characters such as Mark Fossie and his girlfriend, Mary Anne. During the war, Fossie invites his girlfriend to explore with him, but they come across relationship challenges. While Kingston transitions her stories between five different women known as her aunt, dead aunt, mom, Fa Mu Lan, and herself. The setting that is created from both is a nostalgic recollection of memories, myths, and events. The differences in setting consist of society, culture, and values. O’Brien focuses on the obligations of the soldiers because at this time, expectations were set high due to the tough circumstances within society. Circumstances such as men being sent to war, low employment, small range of opportunities. Also, reputation plays a major role in the lives of men because they are to be viewed as strong, brave, and unemotional. For example, O’Brien becomes overwhelmed when he receives a draft letter.
Although society pressures men to participate in war, he has no interest in going. O’Brien (1990) says “I survived, but it’s not a happy ending. I was a coward. I went to the war” (p.). He chose to go to war rather than fleeing because he didn’t want to face cowardice and humiliation. Meanwhile, Kingston focuses on raising the role of women in society and representing the difficulties emigrants from China dealt with. This novel has an overflowing amount of Chinese culture involved. During this time, discrimination, low income, and limited privileges were common. Kingston (1976) yells “I’m not a bad girl,” I would scream. “I’m not a bad girl. I’m not a bad girl.” I might as well have said, “I’m not a girl” (p.). This quote represents how women felt unwanted, unappreciated, and invisible.
Character analysis helps develop the plot because it gives an outline of the character’s traits and their role. This challenges the readers to analyze more about the character. The involvement of conflict brings characterization because it affects the protagonist by developing internal and external qualities. Both authors incorporate character analysis to create an interaction between the characters and audience. They reveal the character’s motivation, behavior, and personality through characterization. For example, Tim as a kid is motivated to gain an education before he drafts to war. From this, the audience can infer that he is observant as he settles into his new life. Just as Kingston describes Moon Orchid to be timid as she is put to the task to find her lost husband. The reader can contrast between Moon and her confident sister, Brave Orchid. Two traits that describe O’Brien is sentimental and excessively dramatic. This is exemplified through the pictures of Martha he carries to remember innocence before war. He explains “Whenever he looked at the photographs , he thought of new things he should have done.” (O’Brien, 1990, p.). Not only does the quote represent his sentimental personality but reveals how he dramatically over thinks what he could’ve done to prevent a situation. His dramatic point of view adds intensity to the story but also becomes bothersome when it turns out to not be true. Traits that describe Kingston is bold and ambitious. The following quote “I refused to cook. When I had to wash dishes, I would crack one or two.” (Kingston, 1976, p.). This represents her boldness to others that she had strength in what she believed whether it was the small things like refusing to cook or, the big things. Kingston (1976) explains “Night after night, my mother would talk-story until we fell asleep,” Kingston writes. “I couldn’t tell where the stories left and the dreams began, her voice the voice of heroines in my sleep” (p.). The stories that her mom told her encourages Kingston to break from tradition. During her childhood, she was always told she would grow to be a slave due to culture, but her ambitious drive encouraged her to be a warrior like Fu Mulan. Differences in character analysis is shown through external and internal conflict. O’Brien involves more internal and external situations while Kingston doesn’t have a central problem. He displays conflict between himself and the new medic, Jorgenson, who was incapable of fixing his shock. O’Brien (1990) aggressively says “Jorgenson was no Rat Kiley. He was green and incompetent and scared” (p.). From the text, the readers can infer that O’Brien is quick to judge and holds grudges. Even though Jorgenson apologized, O’Brien refused to accept the apology because they didn’t reach his standards.
The theme of guilt and blame is applied through this quote because O’Brien automatically puts all the pressure on Jorgenson rather than thinking about other possibilities. Unlike Kingston emphasizes how the American lifestyle differs from the Chinese. The clashing of cultures and gender roles influence Kingston’s choices and thoughts.
Kingston (1976) says in the following: The immigrants I know have loud voices, unmodulated to American tones even after years away from the village where they called their friendships out across the fields. I have not been able to stop my mother’s screams in public libraries or over telephones. (p.) The theme of using your voice as you grow up in the Chinese society was applied. This passage illustrates how the immigrants used their voices without a worry of what the Americans thought.
The two authors share a common purpose in the way that they use similar storytelling, use of language, characters, and setting to convey a similar message. They both are making the distinction between truth and reality as they examine and reflect on experiences. O’Brien believes that revealing Vietnam stories within a fiction book will make it more credible. He writes, “The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you” (O’Brien, 1990. p.). O’Brien puts this near the end of the book to get his point of keeping others alive and to manage his misfortunes across. Kingston’s relationship with her family members is to empower and unite the feminine society. She questions “Why not? Because I’m a girl? Is that why won’t?” “Why didn’t you teach me English?” “You like having me beaten up at school, don’t you?”(Kingston, 1976, p.) This quote gives a glimpse of the struggles women faced during this time, but also shows how she wasn’t afraid to speak up for herself. In conclusion these two authors utilize several types of literary strategies throughout their works. While the specific way in which they demonstrated setting, storytelling, and character analysis may have been different; both authors chose similar techniques. While on the surface the novels appear to be different, once one can analyze the true meaning the similarities become apparent. As said by Iris Murdoch “We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.” Iris Murdoch perfectly captures the idea of truth versus reality seen between these two novels.
Analysis of the Various Definitions of the American Voice in American Literature
The American Voice is defined in more ways than one person can count. It is perceived as a voice of freedom, a voice of praise, a voice of justice, a voice of peace, (to name a few). Yes the American Voice can be defined in many ways; but the direction I will go in are dealing with the voices of knowledge and understanding.
The authors of the books I will be referring to all have “written with the voice of knowledge and understanding. “The help-Kathryn Stockett, The Things They Carried- Tim O’Brien, and Lessons we learn from Ruth-Denise Gordon all have a message of knowledge that one must have, and a lesson of understanding the knowledge presented.
American culture and American history for African Americans is viewed quite differently than their counter parts. Thus making our level of understanding and knowledge different. My culture views America differently as well. Even though there is so much of our history in the past there is still very much of it part of the present. For example in the book “The Help” the maids were view as uneducated worthless people. Today we are not outwardly view as worthless but despite our degrees and education we still have to be five steps ahead of our counter parts. My culture truly has never recovered from our past. Instead of being in slaved we are allowing ourselves to be slaved to by our own way of thinking and perception/understanding by America as we now know it. Our understanding of America is sad. We are not loyal to our culture as our counter parts; we adopt other languages and accept a language which displays poor grammar, we allow others to give this poor language a name and apply it to our culture. We talk to one another with no respect or regard to our young. We allow the financial institution in America to establish how we spend and earn our money; thus controlling us to keep us depending on others and not one another.
We are all not like this but unfortunately this is a large voice of America and in order to fix it we first must understand it and take this knowledge and form another voice of America. A voice that will provide knowledge to take us in another direction so our history is not constantly repeating itself.
Religion is truly an interesting subject for the African American Culture. Our religion provides an unexplainable hope and promise for us. In the past religion carried messages of hope and a future of freedom. Now our religion carries status and puts us in a certain class of people. This may be one of the few things we have in common with our counter parts. In the book “Lessons We Learn From Ruth” the author talks about how we (America) view the single woman with children. It discusses how Ruth’s (a biblical character in the Bible) qualities which make a good model and lifestyle from the Christian perspective. The author discusses economic, social relationships and spirituality. This knowledge from the author teaches us not to judge this woman and to keep her lifted positively with prayer, economics, and support. Our understanding however allow us to judge this woman, complain if she needs financial support, and if she works we say she not spending time raising her children; if doesn’t well now she is lazy and a poor role model. The single woman has a difficult time with being treated fairly and with love in our hearts. The voice of America at times can be cold and empty.
Finally, the last book I read “The Things They Carried” this author had a profound way of making me understand that things that anger, burden, and upset you can control and ruin your life as you know it. If you allow any one of these three things consume/control you; you have just given that person or situation power over you. This was the best knowledge I received in a long time because I could relate this information to real world situations.
I hope you now have a better understanding how knowledge is power and the key to the power is how well you understand it. This will benefit you so your voice can assist with forming and shaping our Voice in America.
A Review of Both External and Internal Conflicts in the Things They Carried by Tim O’brien
“The Things They Carried” is a story of two friends O’Brien and Kiowa during the Vietnamese war. At the beginning of the story, O’Brien was in a dilemma to make a decision on whether to go to the war or not (O’brien, 2009). His decisions were influenced by his desire to avoid shame and impress his family. The life of Tim took different twists at the course of the war. The author of this story employs different literary elements such as conflict, complication and the moment of change. This discusses conflicts, complication and moment of change that can be identified in the story.
The conflict in the story is both internal and external. Vietnam War is the most obvious conflict that can be identified in the story. The idea of going engaging in a physical conflict contributed philosophical conflict within the United States between two different factions, those who supported the war and those who opposed. At the beginning of the story, the author of the story was undergoing mental conflict as he had to make a decision on whether to go to the war or not. During his childhood, he was against the war and the Vietnamese war led him to weigh in on whether to avoid going to the war because he is against it, or whether he should go to the war to impress his family and home town the residences (O’brien, 2009). He was aware of the consequences of his decisions and so he chose the latter. The story has focused on internal conflicts which includes mental and psychological perspective of the author in regard to war such as shame, blame, courage, making right decisions.
The complication in the story is the turning point where the author had to make a decision to overcome his dilemma situation (Iwata, 2009). At the beginning of the story, the author who has been against the idea of going to war had psychological and mental conflicts in a decision whether to go to Vietnam. The author had to weigh in between going to the war and escaping to avoid going to the war (O’brien, 2009). Faced with pressure of avoiding shame and blame, O’Brien was able to make a decision to go to the war, and it is the turning point of the story. The author had no choice; he had to go to Vietnam to address both internal (mental dilemma) and external conflict (physical war).
The moment of change in the story is evident during the course of the war when protagonist was wounded. The moment of change is unexpected change inside a story (Plummer, 2002). There was a different experience between being a soldier and being a civilian. After Tim was injured, the story took a long twists as he felt more like a civilian ounce again, an experienced which he had missed. After the incident where Tim got an injury, the authority transferred him to lighter duty and he felt more like a civilian (O’Brien, 2009). This moment of change had significant impact on the Tim’s character. He felt he didn’t belong to the military anymore and was angry against the America move to take them to a war zone. At first, the experience of war had changed Tim to an extends where he felt he was not part of American society. His injury led him to change his perception about the war and began to hate his identity as a soldier.
How Memories of Vietnam Are Represented in the Things They Carried by Tim O’brien
The Vietnam War greatly changed America forever. It was the second longest war in American History, lasting about 10 years. Not only was the Vietnam war a long war, but it was quite possibly one of the most violent wars fought in history,, which of course nobody really wanted to be a part of, especially when they didn’t know what they were fighting for. This is shown in the novel The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien , whom shares his memories of the Vietnam war through this novel.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is a war novel based on his experiences in the Vietnam war. For O’Brien the draft was probably one of the most difficult things he had to deal with in his life. This conflict is most closely demonstrated in the chapter On The Rainy River. O’Brien is faced with the decision of either going to Vietnam after being drafted or running away to Canada. It is a moment of self-realization for himself. This is a moment he will play over and over again in his life because he realizes that he is scared and ashamed at the same time. O’Brien sits in the middle of the river weighing his options. Going to Canada would mean leaving his family, relinquishing his citizenship but going to war would mean he was a coward. O’Brien was against the war because he didn’t know why there even was a war, it went against his morals. He was “set for life” (41), he “felt no sense of impending crisis” (41) . This draft caused an internal and moral crisis for O’Brien.
Men were drafted and sent to fight in the Vietnam War under the terms of the Selective Training and Service Act, which was passed by Congress in 1940. It wasn’t a matter of if anyone wanted to go to war. If one was drafted, they had to go and if they refused they were put in jail for draft evasion. The Selective Service System (SSS) was established as the operating body of the draft in 1917 for World War I and continues to be the primary body through which men must register after the age of 18. This was preceded by the National Conscription Act of 1863 that created a lottery system where men could have been drafted for the Civil War. “During the Vietnam War about two-thirds of American troops were volunteered, the rest were selected for military service through the drafts. In the beginning of the war, the names of all American men in draft-age were collected by the Selective Service” (https://thevietnamwar.info/vietnam-war-draft/) . Many people thought that the draft was unfair and unconstitutional. There were some ways to delay going to war including physical illness and being enrolled in college. “Many of the ways in which draft-age men received deferments favored those who were wealthy and well educated” (https://wayzata.k12.mn.us/cms/lib/MN01001540/Centricity/Domain/953/The%20Vietnam%20War%20and%20the%20Draft%20Reading.pdf).
As a result of the Vietnam war, it is not required that men go to war involuntarily. Although men still have to register with the SSS, many citizens, men and women enlist in the military voluntarily. It takes a great deal of courage and nationalism to do so. O’Brien claims he was a coward for not wanting to fight for his country, with the reason that he didn’t know what he was fighting for. Other men in history have been known to make America proud in the military. Although Vietnam technically wasn’t a war, it certainly left an impact on America forever.
The Things They Carried: the Theme of War and Conflict
War and Conflict Essay
War and Conflict have both affected many lives. Conflicts have caused arguments, fights, and ,usually, has ended great relationships. While War may be about the same thing, it has ended lives instead of relationships. War gives paranoia, instead of relief. Sometimes it even gives insanity. They both cause trouble, but only one gives satisfaction to someone.
The conflict in “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, in the chapter called “On The Rainy River”, he has one conflict that has changed his perspective on his life.“In June of 1968, a month after graduating from Macalester College, I was drafted to fight a war I hated” (O’Brien 34). He knew about the war, but he does not know what was the reason for it anymore. He knew in the beginning that it was for Communism, but now it’s just to win, win, win.
He has no idea what to do. Leave and fight in a war he will most likely die in, or to go onto Canada and live as a fugitive. “A moral freeze: I couldn’t decide, I couldn’t act, I couldn’t comport myself with even a pretense of modest human dignity. All I could do was cry”(O’Brien 45). He had the chance to leave the U.S. but he could not bring himself to do it. He told himself that he was too embarrassed to leave. He thought of himself as a coward for going to the war, instead of leaving it.
The war in Vietnam gives a different ending. Many soldiers change once they go in. They come back paranoid or sometimes just plain insane. “They sneered at sick call. They spoke bitterly about guys who had found release by shooting off their own toes or fingers”(O’Brien 24). Many of the soldiers gave themselves self-injuries, and just shot off the least important body part, like a toe. They could not find any other way to leave. The only way to leave is to get shot. Many took that shot or just blew themselves away.
The insanity went far though. “What happened to her, Rat said, was what happened to all of them. You come over clean and you get dirty and then afterward it’s never the same”(O’Brien 81). No matter who or how nice, mean, perverted, sincere, they were, they will come out changed. They will become someone their friends have never known, someone their family wishes was gone. Rarely will they commit suicide, but it depends what they have seen, or if they could have handled it. Like Mary Anne, she came in the beginning as a sweet little girl, not capable of anything dangerous. Her curiosity defied her, as she wanted learn more about combat, medicine, surgery, and the Greenies. She knew the land well and that is what motivated her to leave. How her sweetheart, Mark Fossie, does not know how it is out in the forest, how hellish it is.
In the end, War and Conflict are different but somehow the same. They both have trouble involved, but only one can have one victor without any scars. War causes a sort of paranoia, while conflict causes only disagreements.
“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien appears to be a war story about items a platoon of soldiers carried while in Vietnam. The story actually centers around the death of one of the platoon members and the horrible conditions of Vietnam. But the author goes into a deeper, hidden meaning of the things.He subtly expresses the ideas that the soldiers carried with them more than just hear, they carried the items from back home, emotional baggage,and the death of their fellow comrades. And the pain and horror they have to endure is only bearable with these items and the symbolism of hope they have with them. Because with each item they carry the hope of returning home and the hope of making it back home the same person.In the unforgivable wilderness of Vietnam,the young soldiers are forced to carry heavy artillery and supplies.
Still these terrified men go up the extra weight to take letters,pictures, and other things that remind them of the people back at home. These things can be weighed in 40 pounds and ounces and put a strong physical strain of the soldiers.. However, the emotional burdens Tim O’Brien describes in “The Things They Carried” are the most difficult weights they have to bear. O’Brien lists the required supplies carried by all of the soldiers and gives examples of the personal things each soldier chooses “to hump”, which means “to march” or “to walk” (137).
O’Brien gives great detail of the internal, emotional struggles that weigh so heavily on the Lieutenant. Cross physically carries letters, photographs and a “simple pebble, an ounce at most” all given to him by a junior at Mount Sebastian College, named Martha (The Things They Carried 12). All things considered, considering the unending risk they look in Vietnam, the psychological weight each man worries about is a significantly heavier concern.. “Grief, terror, love, longing- these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight” (The Things They Carried 9). Long after the heavy artillery fire and gunshots cracking through the air, some of the pressure of the war is lifted from their shoulders,but the emotional scars will remainO’Brien doesn’t offer as much detail into the emotional baggage carried by Cross” men, but each of the soldiers carried with them something from home. Kiowa carries a copy of the Old Testament, which was given to him by his father (The Things They Carried O’Brien 22). He is also carries the tremendous weight of “his grandmother’s distrust for the white man” and a hunting hatchet (The Things They CarriedO’Brien 22). These emotional and physical items imply that Kiowa, who is Native American, struggles to put the vital trust into his allies, as a result of his upbringing.Dave Jensen, who carries extra socks,high carotene vitamins, foot powder,and ear plugs, seems to have an staggering fear of disease.
Mitchell Sanders carries condoms, which doesn’t make sense or offer any insight however, be that as it may, he is additionally the soilder who cuts the thumb off of a young Vietcong and gives it to another soldier, Norman Bowker (Speaking Of Courage O’Brien 142). The demonstration of removing a young man’s thumb and after that kicking him in the head shows that Sanders is battling with some emotional instability, and a lack of respect for life.These issues might be an immediate aftereffect of the war, or may have been present before in his life.The impacts of these physiological battles is outlined by Cross” failure to control his fantasies about Martha. He gets himself unfit to concentrate on the dangers around him, even as Lee Strunk is looking through the passages in Than Khe, confronting unknown dangers. lieutenant Cross loses himself in a daydream. Through a war there will be a lot of bloodshed, the enemies and even yours. With all the gunfire and shots being fired, people dropping you have no time for grievance. But after a while when you one one by one your friends die, the burden of living with that, the doubt of if you could of saved him or not. All of that starts to pile up and slowly unravel you.
In The Things They Carried many people had to watch as their friends died Curt Lemon being the first. Trying to make some sense of the war or relieving the tension Kurt started playing toss with a smoke grenade with Rat Kiley. Then he stepped on a landmine and blew up. And after seeing so much death you become numb and feel no agony, you slowly start to lose it. Jensen and O’Brien were ordered to climb the tree to retrieve Lemon’s body, and Jensen sang “Lemon Tree” as they threw down the body parts.(182 “How to Tell a True War Story”) The fact that a friend dying out of nowhere doesn’t cause tears, doesn’t cause concern shows how war breaks you. When someone you know dying isn’t a big deal because people die everyday, you start to cope with it in different ways. In this case jenson started singing as he picked up his friend’s body parts.And after that Ted Lavender was the second body to hit the floor. Ted lavender just went out to take a piss and then a crack ripped through the air, his friends watching him drop, lying in a pool of blood. This causes Jimmy cross to start blaming himself for his death. “He had loved Martha more than his men, and as a consequence Lavender was now dead, and this was something he would have to carry like a stone in his stomach for the rest of the war”. (The Things They Carried.16)
This haunts Jimmy Cross through the book. All of these characters are haunted by guilt, looking for someone or something to blame. They are shattered into pieces scattered across the battlefield. Cracking jokes about the death of comrades, trying to cope, or find meaning in the death of the war. When you hear of war stories you never hear of the death, or the excruciating toll it has on your mind and your body. The guilt, emotional baggage and simple watching as your friends drop one by one can break a man. All of this stuff piled on causes you to lose yourself, act like someone your not. You cling on to anything so that you don’t lose it, or fall down into the black. Just how each soldier brought something with them, carried it wherever they went. They carried the objects from home, but they also carried the weight of the war on their soldiers.