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Essay about Coping Mechanisms Used for Survival in The Things They Carried

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The Things They Carried”
The novel, “The Things They Carried”, is about the experiences of Tim O’Brian and his fellow platoon members during their time fighting in the Vietnam War. They face much adversity that can only be encountered in the horrors of fighting a war. The men experience death of friends, civilians, enemies and at points loss of their rationale. In turn, the soldiers use a spectrum of methods to cope with the hardships of war, dark humor, daydreaming, and violent actions all allow an escape from the horrors of Vietnam that they experience most days.
When O’Brien first arrives to Vietnam, the men of the platoon show him how the grief of war can be covered up by humor. As the men were patrolling near a village off the South China Sea they suddenly started to encounter sniper fire. The firefight only lasted a few minutes but Lt. Cross decided to order an airstrike on the village anyways. After the strike was over, the platoon proceeded to the smoldering village to find nothing but “…an old man who lay face up near a pigpen at the center of the village. His right arm was gone. At his face there were already many flies and gnats.”(). To many, this image of a destroyed village and the mutilated old man would cause horror and plight. Instead of that normal reaction, “Dave Jensen went over and shook the old man’s hand. “How-dee-doo,” he said.”(). The other men of the platoon also went up to the dead man’s body and shook his hand while adding a comment. This disturbing response the men have to the dead old man isn’t one of disrespect, it is their coping mechanism for realizing what they just did. Because O’Brien was new to Vietnam he had yet to understand why the men were all doing this. He was awestruck by the actions...


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...o”(79). The men knew that Rat needed to kill the animal in order to cope with the loss of his friend. The platoon understood that “…it was a question of pain”(79) not sanity that Rat was trying to figure out. Everyone has a breaking point of how much they can handle. For Rat, the way of dealing with his problems presented itself in the killing of the Buffalo, for others it was humor and daydreaming.
In conclusion the soldiers use dark humor, daydreaming, and violent actions which all allow an escape from the horrors they had to go through in Vietnam. These coping mechanisms allowed the men to continue to fight and survive the war. They wouldn’t have been able to carry on if it wasn’t for the outlets these methods provided. Without humor, daydreaming, and violent actions, the war would have been unbearable for the men, and detrimental to their lives going forward.


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