The Importance of Friendship in The Things They Carried

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The Importance of Friendship in The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried is a collection of stories about the Vietnam War that the author, Tim O’Brien, uses to convey his experiences and feelings about the war. The book is filled with stories about the men of Alpha Company and their lives in Vietnam and afterwards back in the United States. O’Brien captures the reader with graphic descriptions of the war that make one feel as if they were in Vietnam. The characters are unique and the reader feels sadness and compassion for them by the end of the novel. To O’Brien the novel is not only a compilation of stories, but also a release of the fears, sadness, and anger that he has felt because of the Vietnam War.

One of the significant concepts in The Things They Carried is that of the importance of certain objects or feelings used by the soldiers of Alpha Company to survive the war. Some examples of these items are the picture of the girl carried by Jimmy Cross, the Bible carried by Kiowa, and the stockings carried by Henry Dobbins. All the items helped the respective soldier to survive from day to day and to continue fighting the war. One of the most important things that helped the soldiers is their friendship with each other. This bond that the soldiers form helped them to survive, excluded someone who was outside their group, and helped the men of Alpha Company to cope with the war after they returned to the United States.

The bond that men form with each other in the heat of battle is incomprehensible to those who have not experienced warfare for themselves.

It’s a hard thing to explain to somebody who hasn’t felt it, but the resence of death and danger has a way of bringing you fully awake. It makes things vivid. When you’re afraid, really afraid, you see things you never saw before, you pay attention to the world. You make close friends. You become part of a tribe and you share the same blood – you give it together, you take it together. (O’Brien, 220)

This bond of friendship helps the men of Alpha Company survive on a day to day basis. They rely on each other for entertainment to drone out the monotony of the days. With hours and hours of marching and no action the men need a release or the boredom would drive them crazy. An example of this is “Kiowa teaching a rain dance to Rat Kiley and Dave Jensen, the thre...

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...xcept I can’t ever find any words, if you know what I mean, and I can’t figure out exactly what to say. (O’Brien, 179)

The soldiers feel that the only people they can talk to about the war are their “brothers”, the other men who experienced the Vietnam War. The friendship and kinship that grew in the jungles of Vietnam survived and lived on here in the United States. By talking to each other, the soldiers help to sort out the incidents that happened in the War and to put these incidents behind them. “The thing to do, we decided, was to forget the coffee and switch to gin, which improved the mood, and not much later we were laughing at some of the craziness that used to go on” (O’Brien, 29).

The friendships and bonds that formed in the jungles of Vietnam between the members of Alpha Company help them to survive on a day to day basis. Not only while they were “in country”, but in dealing with their lives back in the United States. Without the bonds of friendship none of them men of Alpha Company would have survived mentally or physically the strains and trauma of the Vietnam War.

Works Cited

O'Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York: Broadway Books, 1990.

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