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Lack of Morality in War Depicted in Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried

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Tim O’Brien’s book “The Things They Carried” epitomizes the degradation of morals that war produces. This interpretation is personified in the characters who gradually blur the line dividing right and wrong as the motives for war itself become unclear. The morality of soldiers and the purpose of war are tied also to the truth the soldiers must tell themselves in order to participate in the gruesome and random killing which is falsely justified by the U.S government. The lack of purpose in the Vietnam War permanently altered the soldier’s perspective of how to react to situations and in most cases they turned to violence to express their frustration.

The men’s mission was plainly described by O’Brien, stating “If you weren’t humping, you were waiting…It was boredom with a twist, the kind of boredom that causes stomach disorders.” (O’Brien, 34). Without an actual destination, these soldiers were constantly in a position to simply wait and die; to attack or be attacked. The brutal tactics of guerilla warfare were used in which these men had no chance of survival if they did not kill any opposing soldier that stepped in their way. In this sense, their morality is completely shifted to serve the war itself; they become dehumanized and serve as vessels to kill or become lost in Vietnam’s jungle. While on this mission, when confronted with a traumatic event, instead of a typical reaction like crying, the men would resort to violence to express their pain. For example, when Curt Lemon, Rat Kiley’s best friend stepped on a mine and was killed, Rat took his agony and suffering out on a water buffalo, slowly and painfully destroying the animal’s life. Rat’s reaction shows that the war itself had begun to consume him and finally did when h...

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...e with Vietnam; war and land, they forget the people the used to be. Tim O’Brien turned from a scholarly student with manners to a cold bully and Norman Bowker could not even grasp returning to his old life and had to end his altogether. The absence of morality in war can change a man to mimic the war itself, and in the current wars America is involved in, the same disillusionment is occurring. People both at home and involved in the war are losing their sense of patriotism because they cannot back a war they do not truly understand. When reading O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried”, readers should take a way an understanding that war without purpose does nothing but ruin the credibility of the country as well as the mental stability of all of those involved.

Work Cited

O'Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried: a Work of Fiction. New York: Broadway, 1998.

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