The Things They Carried’ by Tim O’Brien

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‘The Things They Carried’ by Tim O’Brien provides a insider’s view of war and its distractions, both externally in dealing with combat and internally dealing with the reality of war and its effect on each solder. The story, while set in Vietnam, is as relevant today with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as it was in the 1960’s and 1970’s in Southeast Asia. With over one million soldiers having completed anywhere from one to three tours in combat in the last 10 years, the real conflict might just be inside the soldier. O’Brien reflects this in his writing technique, using a blend of fiction and autobiographical facts to present a series of short narratives about a small unit of soldiers. While a war story, it is also an unrequited love story too, opening with Jimmy Cross holding letters from a girl he hoped would fall in love with him. (O’Brien 1990).
The reader is left wondering from the beginning, ‘is this a true story or complete fiction?’ The line between fiction and truth are blurred at best. Tim O’Brien’s use of overlapping rhetorical situations is clearly designed to illicit a reaction from different groups of potential audience members. O’Brien seems to try and drive the audience by appealing to them through the use of pathos “…right then Ted Lavender was shot in the head on his way back from peeing. He lay with his mouth open. The teeth were broke. There was a swollen black bruise under his left eye. The cheekbone was gone.” (O’Brien 1990) He appears to intentionally use the deaths of several members in particular Ted Lavender to shock the audience; to make it somehow real and to remind us it is more than a story, its history and real men lived and died in that history.
The veteran can surely relate...

... middle of paper ... make the reader connect on several levels we get a 180 degree look at the focus in war.
Without reminders about what war can do, we are most certainly destined to forget it damages the very souls of those who serve. We risk becoming blind or immune to war and we forget those who bear its burdens long after it is over.


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O'Brien, T. (1990). The things they carried. The things they carried. Tim O’Brien, Author. Retrieved from
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