The Things They Carried By Tim O ' Brien

1916 Words8 Pages
I. Introduction and Biographical Information Author Tim O 'Brien has received many honors and much recognition for his book, The Things They Carried, which is based on his personal involvement in Vietnam. He was drafted in 1968 and served in the 23rd Infantry Division, which is otherwise called the American Division. A unit from this group had been charged with the slaughter at My Lai about a year prior to O 'Brien 's entry. Originally from Minnesota, O’Brien was born in 1946 making him about twenty-two years old when he was drafted (PBS 2013). The year he was drafted, he had graduated summa cum laude from Macalester College. He was in Vietnam between 1969 and March 1970, about one year total. After returning, he went back to college, to study at Harvard University, and then became a columnist for The Washington Post. In 1987, O 'Brien acquired the National Magazine Award for The Things They Carried. He holds the University Endowed Chair in Creative Writing at Texas State University in Austin (PBS 2013). The philosophical idea in O’Brien’s book that is unique in this genre because it is purported to be biographical and is told in a narrative which uses first hand eyewitness accounts and deductions. An additional element that is unusual is that the point of view assumes that the soldiers view themselves and their lives as the only relevant reality (Clarke 130). They arrive in Vietnam War carrying the stories of others, but their reality alters the usefulness of those stories. Therefore, these American youth have a tendency to believe that their personal stories depicting the war are the only real and authentic stories. Other ideas about Vietnam that may have become contentious among Americans and others... ... middle of paper ... ... as his storyteller. O 'Brien 's maze of stories ensures however, that ultimately readers will be uncertain about what actually happened during the war. The honest truth of the matter remains elusive (Ooms 26). O 'Brien 's methodology is one in which the characters are all certain and because they all have conflicting stories everything remains unclear. Kiley himself is inconsistent in his story telling as he constantly bends the truth in different directions, "It wasn 't an issue of duplicity. The exact inverse: he needed to warmth up reality, to make it blaze so hot that you would feel precisely what he felt" (O’Brien 101). This type of technique makes O 'Brien 's true story bewildering (Ooms 28). The critical thing is that with any tale about a war, and the Vietnam War in particular, the war story is simultaneously horrifyingly real and hard to believe.
Open Document