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“The Vietnam War was arguably the most traumatic experience for the United States in the twentieth century. That is indeed a grim distinction in a span that included two world wars, the assassinations of two presidents and the resignation of another, the Great Depression, the Cold War, racial unrest, and the drug and crime waves.” (Goldstein 1). The Vietnam War is widely regarded as one of the most traumatic experiences in all of American History. Innocent boys trudged through the mud, the heat and the fear that came along with fighting in Vietnam. Tim O’Brien paints a picture of how difficult and traumatic Vietnam was for the soldiers who experienced it in his book, The Things They Carried. Throughout the course of the book the elements of fiction: plot, character and setting all act to serve the purpose in conveying O’Brien’s theme of his work which is revealed to be at the conclusion: a message of universal immortality. In Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried setting is the most crucial element in understanding theme, followed by character then lastly plot.
In The Things They Carried, plot is the most difficult aspect of the story for the reader to track. This is because many of Tim O’Brien’s war stories are actually meta-fiction. He admits this in one of his vignettes Good Form: “I’m forty-three years old, true, and I’m a writer now, and a long time ago I walked through Quang Ngai Province as a foot soldier. Almost everything else is invented” (179). O’Brien states that the only truths in his stories is his occupation during the war. Because of this, the events that occur in O’Brien’s stories lose much credibility, because the reader is unable to separate truth from reality. Thus, the plot of the story comes from Tim O’Brien’...

... middle of paper ... to write about his platoon members. Because Tim O’Brien goes to Vietnam and faces the stress and deals with the trauma his character is forever altered. This is the Tim O’Brien who discovers that one can never die.
In the Things They Carried plot is the least important element of fiction, character is more important setting is the most important element when considering theme. Plot while crucial at points, loses credibility as most events are meta-fiction and structure is not important. Character is important because O’Brien’s main purpose is to keep his friends alive. While this is true he would have never met his friends and discovered immortality if he did not go to Vietnam. Goldstein states that the Vietnam War was the most traumatic American event of the 20th Century. The trauma from this horrific however, leads O’Brien to discover that death is impossible.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how tim o'brien paints a picture of how difficult and traumatic vietnam was for the soldiers who experienced it in his book, the things they carried.
  • Analyzes how tim o'brien's war stories are meta-fiction because they are told from a subjective point of view. the plot is less important than character or setting in determining theme.
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