The "Things They Carried" essay

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O’Brien wanted people to see that war isn’t full of heroes and glory, but more of evil and gore. His book is different from the majority of other war stories. It doesn’t focus on the typical heroic/cowardly characters because in a war there aren’t simply heroes or cowards. Actions that may seem heroic at first are often done out of fear of being judged by other soldiers, and what is seen as cowardly might be the bravest thing for the soldier himself. By this and many other stories O’Brien shows the horrible effects the war has on the soldiers, how the innocent, young boys drastically change. For example, in one of the stories, Rat Kiley talks about Mary Anne who changes from an innocent girl into a ruthless killer. “You come over clean and you get dirty and then afterward it’s never the same”. (109) Instead of stereotypical war heroes, the soldiers in O’Brien’s book are just ordinary people with normal fears and desires which makes it easier for the readers to see the not-so-glorious reality of war. Many things the soldiers do and look heroic are actually done because they’re too afraid to be judged by their friends. When Tim has to decide if he wants to go to the war or escape to Canada. The fact that people could think he’s a coward greatly influences his decisions. In the beginning, Tim thinks that a person shouldn’t use courage so there is enough saved up when it’s needed. In “On the Rainy River” he realizes that’s not true because even though he’s been saving up courage all his life, it’s not enough to make the decision he thinks is right. Throughout the book O’Brien, explains that courage has to be taught by life, it’s not something people either are or are not born with or something people can “save up”. He thinks that if ... ... middle of paper ... many things that might seem untraditional or inappropriate for a war story. The fact that he uses no war heroes is a big difference from most of the books that talk about war. Also, he doesn’t try to make war to look honorable. His stories aren’t uplifting, but they’re not really sad either. Most of the time they seem kind of unsettling which, in fact, makes them more believable. O’Brien’s stories don’t happen just during war and aren’t only about war because “To generalize about war is like generalizing about peace.” (77) There isn’t just one certain type of story that could be called a war story, as well as there’s not just one specific way to tell a war story. The fact that O’Brien’s characters aren’t the typical heroes people expect, actually makes it somehow easier to empathize with their feelings and helps understand what the war’s really like.
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