The Things They Carried

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TheThings They Carried

Thethings they carried byTim O’Brien.

Thethings they carriedis a strong meditation on the experience of soldiers in theVietnamese war and even after the war. At the same time, the work isa war autobiography, writer’s memoir, a collection of fictionalstories, reality and an emotional burden for those who fought theVietnamese war (Hardesty, 2014). It is interesting that some of thethings they carried for the war such as charms just portray theirinnocence and their slim chances of survival and the hopelessnesswith which they joined the war. We also notice that they must havebeen feeling frustrated by the reality of the war itself. However,the works are different but they can be joined to give the reflectionof a long strong that has similar characters, themes, and the plot.Thus in this context, the argument will revolve some of thereflections that Tim O’Brien has used to make the text captivatingto read.

Thename of the story is symbolic of the many things that the soldierswho were in the Vietnam War carried. The metaphor embedded in thetitle carries more weight as we observe most of the characters in thestory are burdened with fear and guilt in their hearts, a burdenwhose weight has persisted in history. The physical objects andweapons are symbols of war, and they immediately communicate to thereader the disposition and the tone of the story as depressed andanxious. On the same kind of thought, the writer used imagery toportray the graphical description of the realism of the war. Throughthis the reader sees the story through the eyes the author intends.

Theauthor blends fiction and reality by creating a protagonist, aVietnam War veteran named &quotTim Obrien&quot. The creation ofthis fictional character allows the author to explore his realemotions as if they were fictional but in the real sense they aretrue and at the same time he challenges us when we view the story asfiction when it is a true story. Therefore in this essay, the TimO`Brien represents the author while &quotO`Brien will represent thefictional main character of the play. The work is both a novel and anautobiography of the writer, but it is represented as theautobiography of the fictional character.

TheVietnam War was a historic moment that was marked by confusion andconflict as expressed by the disagreements over the war and theunstructured war that the soldiers were asked to fight. Theconditions before the war almost disillusioned the soldiers as theyjoined the war in fear and torment. The confusion and conflict can beobserved in other literature of the Vietnam War as well whichreflects some miniature form of the larger version of disorder andconflict. This sets the theme of chaos that depicts The Things TheyCarried. For instance, the author shows that&quotO`Brien&quotwas in a dilemma on whether to join the war or flee to Canada. Theissue of draft dodging from military work was a high-pressure issuethat many organizations felt strong. The author gives us the view ofboth sides of the issue, the feeling of fear for a young man whointends to protect his life and probably a harsh penalty for notbeing patriotic to his country. In all the stories in TheThings They Carried,the author highlights important historical tensions of the VietnamWar and the present perspectives on these issues that bombard thereader with more question than answers.

Oneof the major themes the author addresses in the novel is the pressurecaused by the feeling the urge to adhere to community standards ofduty with courage and patriotism. This perception is a common themein most of Vietnam war-related fiction since most of the soldiers whofought in the war were born and brought up immediately after WorldWar II. Therefore, most soldiers picked in Vietnam War picked thevalues of their parents, referred to as G.I. Generation who upheldduty, service and patriotism (Colella 34).

Manyyoung men who were enlisted in Vietnam found a huge contractionbetween the message they had received as they grew up into politicalconsciousness during the Kennedy regime and the continuedproliferation of the cold war. The feelings of confusion were largelyelicited by social action in the US that included peace rallies andresistance music in the 60s and 70s. For instance, the WoodstockMusic Festival in 1969, a gathering of people who supported peace wasa prominent example of this growing pressure.

Evenat the time, the US involvement in the Vietnamese war brought strongdebates in support and disagreement, from within and without the warcommunity. The author meddles in the discussion using tenaciousimages such as the young Vietnamese girl dancing in the midst ofcorpses and rubble and also thoughts of Henry Dobbins, who in spiteof being a successful soldier contemplates becoming a clergy. O`Briengives us a chance to take sides in these debates but constantlyreminds readers, that their thoughts will more about theirperceptions than any inherent meaning in the narratives of war(Gratch, 2015)

Theauthor further demonstrates that our thoughts are a product of ourrecollections through his innovative form. He sets out intentionallyto manipulate out thoughts as we read the work that intends toprovoke new ideas about the Vietnamese war. For example, the authorsets the reader for confirmation as he gives a narrative about asoldier`s difficulty conforming back to civilian life. O`Brien uses anarrative style named as free indirect discourse where the narratorprovides the necessary information about Norman Bowker, which theaudience has no reason to doubt.

Inthe next chapter, the author invites the readers to connect with hiswriting by describing how the story of Norman Bowker was transpired.In doing so &quotO`Brien&quot explains that some of the informationcontained is the ‘speaking of Truth` was partly true and partlyfabricated. From this, &quotO`Brien&quot challenges us to make thejudgment on the extent to which we value storytelling and why(Gratch, 2015)

Furthermore,the author justifies that the ‘`factuality&quot and ‘fictionality`of a story is by far secondary to the effect on the reader whichimplies that if the story evokes an emotional response then there istruth in it. For O`Brien/ &quotO`Brien&quot, the peak of emotion isa metaphorical comment on war. O`Brien`s form is a consolidation ofchoices to share the protagonist`s name and to blur the boundarybetween fact and fiction which is intended to create a loss in thesense of exactness in the readers mind. Authors in related storiesof war suggest that the ambiguity and complexity of the books formand contents give the reader a true experience of war. Although partof the objective of the author is to create an aesthetic thatmotivates the conflict and the uncertainty that characterizedsoldier`s experiences in the genre of war literature and especiallyVietnam War, the novel does the opposite. The novel uses stylishambiguity, but it`s a good source of understanding the Vietnamese war(Chen, n.d)

Inconclusion, TheThings They Carriedoriginates at a crucial post-war moment that significantly differedfrom World War I era in which Hemmingway wrote. However, thefundamental differences and challenges for Vietnam veterans were thedecisiveness of the war and the wave of public opinion opposing thewar. Furthermore, Vietnamese soldiers on return from war, unlike theWorld War I and II, were not lauded. As the Nixon rule transitionedto Ford rule, the general public having been enraged by the warwanted to forget about it, which was the longest foreign militaryinvolvement by the US. The public was also angered by the failure ofthe war to realize its agenda. Moreover, the US did not win or lose,while the esteem of the veterans greatly suffered. Throughout the1970s and 1980s veterans struggled to receive recognition and tobring to attention the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder andsurvivor guilt as a result of the war. Therefore, the Vietnam Warveterans such as Tim O`Brien helped to bring back the memories of thewar that helped to spark and maintain public interest in the war.

Inwar there are no winners. When the Vietnam soldiers return after along time of war activities, the members of the public doesn’tcongratulate them or applaud their war activities even though thesoldiers acted to protect the civilians. The soldiers are hardlywelcome at home. This shows that war aftermath doesn’t pleaseanyone. The public or the concerned majority prefer to havediplomatic dialogues that could bring amicable solution. For instancethe recent terrorist attacks in Paris will not help any part but onlycomplicate diplomatic relations between the Islamic states andFrance. The most amicable solution would be to find a long lastingsolution to solve the political, economic or social differencesbetween the two countries.


Chen,T. (n.d.). &quotUnraveling the Deeper Meaning&quot: Exile and theEmbodied Poetics of Displacement in Tim O`Brien`s &quotThe ThingsThey Carried&quot ContemporaryLiterature,77-77.

Gratch,A. (2015). Teaching Identity Performance through Tim O`Brien`s TheThings They Carried. CommunicationTeacher,71-75.

Hardesty,M. (2014). Vietnam War Era Journeys: Recovering Histories ofInternationalism. MonthlyReview Mon. Rev.,47-47.

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