Literary Modes in War Literature, Such as The Things They Carried Essay

Literary Modes in War Literature, Such as The Things They Carried Essay

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Literary Modes in War Literature

The immediate impact of The Things They Carried is based on O'Brien's fidelity to detail. The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water. Together these items weighed between 15 and 20 pounds. These facts are combined with the intangible and the psychological. They all carried ghosts, they shared the weight of memory and they carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die or already have passed away. O'Brien uses his detail and sense of war to bring meaning to his war story. I felt that the use of Tragedy, Myth and Gothic were well constructed literary modes in the novel "The Things They Carried". These men in the story carry heavy physical loads, they also all carry heavy emotional loads, composed of grief, terror, love, and longing. Each man's physical burden underscores his emotional burden. After the war, the psychological burdens the men carry during the war continue to define them. Those who survive carry guilt, grief, and confusion, and many of the stories in the collection are about these survivors' attempts to come to terms with their experience.
Repeatedly in The Things They Carried O'Brien forces this image before us to convey the tragedy of war. It also serves as a metaphor for combat to American soldiers in Vietnam "the shit" referred to "the day-to-day combat operations endured by GIs in the field" (Clark 463). O'Brien relays this conventional metap...

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...trasting external mythologies to internal mythologies and comparing them both to real truths. O'Brien begins to make these comparisons right from start, as he presents the external mythology of courage in opposition to the experience of his soldiers. O'Brien says, "The war is entirely a matter of posture and carriage" (15). This is not merely a reference to how the soldiers must stand or how they carry their packs. It is also about the things the soldiers carry in their minds, and the posture they must maintain is the challenge to show bravery in the face of immense fear.
Myth, such as O'Brien at the helm of modern war novels, the term courage takes on new dimensions. It becomes more personal. It requires an honest quest by the individual to discover his or her own internal truths. Once found, we need to have the courage to defend it against the enemy that is myth.

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