The Lives Of The Dead By Tim O ' Brien Essay

The Lives Of The Dead By Tim O ' Brien Essay

Length: 1169 words (3.3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

"But this too is true," Tim O 'Brien 's narrator insists in the first line of the chapter that concludes The Things They Carried: "Stories can save us" (224). Entitled "The Lives of the Dead," this final chapter thus begins with a promise not only of healing, but of redemption as well. Stories, the narrator suggests, can heal the traumatized veteran of the Vietnam War and provoke an amnesiac nation into "working through" its troubled past. If, as John Hellemann has written, "the legacy of Vietnam is the disruption of our story, of our explanation of the past and vision of the future" (x), then O 'Brien 's narrator apparently points "the disrupted story" and the nation toward a narrative cure. Such a reading of The Things They Carried, however, requires a denial of the novel 's insistent destabilization of the "true" and its dogged attempts to render war unequivocally beyond redemption. Shifting attention from the final chapter 's first line to its concluding passage makes visible the extent to which the novel challenges the narrative cure that its narrator ostensibly affirms.
The idea of stories as a curative force is attractive, particularly because it suggests that, as a collection of stories about American soldiers in Vietnam, The Things They Carried performs the narrative cure it prescribes, redeeming the reader and the writer at once. Prepared to be "saved," the producer and the receiver of the stories are poised for the closure traditionally accomplished in the final chapter of a war story. For, as Paul Fussell explains in his The Great War and Modern Memory, the third and final stage of the war narrative is the "reconsideration," in which the pre-war understanding of the world is replaced by the deeper insights made painful...


... middle of paper ...


..., the unfinished, and the wound that will not succumb to the narrative cure. Keeping the wound open, O 'Brien 's text prevents the neat closure and false redemption of the traditional war story.
Given that the "spin" and the "loop" are terms central to the novel 's critique of war stories and their specious attempts to reclaim meaning from the war experience, the final passage of "The Lives of the Dead" may be seen as a direct challenge to the sentence that begins it. Rather than confirming that "stories can save us" by redeeming the past and healing all wounds, Timmy 's acrobatic performance on the frozen pond may be seen as a reiteration of the "memory-traffic" (35) and its obsessive art. Prohibiting closure, The Things They Carried keeps the past from disappearing into the dead clichés of the war story, replacing redemption with a critical engagement with the past.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay about Decisions: Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried

- Everyday individuals face decisions in which they must choose whether to do what is appealing to them or to choose a more suitable and compliable choice. In the fictional work of ‘The Things They Carried’ by Tim O’ Brien, certain characters such as Tim O’ Brien himself must face decisions similar to these. The novel demonstrates that when an individual is faced with a decision in which there is a choice that he may have to conform, the individual tends to conform due to not wanting to embarrass themselves or to not be portrayed as a coward to others....   [tags: literary analysis, tim o'brien]

Better Essays
1052 words (3 pages)

The Things They Carried By Tim O ' Brien Essay

- The era of the Vietnam war was a very confusing time for the majority of the United States. Communism was rapidly spreading through developing countries around the world, and that created huge amounts of fear and tension for the US. Vietnam was one of those countries swinging toward adopting communist philosophies, and in fear of the domino effect the US military began a confusing involvement there for over a decade. As the war escalated many young citizens were drafted and forced to fight in Vietnam....   [tags: Vietnam War, South Vietnam, Army]

Better Essays
1216 words (3.5 pages)

The Things They Carried By Tim O ' Brien Essay

- The Things They Carried The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is a story about the Vietnam War and the experiences O’Brien saw and felt. His narrative is a personal reflection of what he experienced in Vietnam years ago. However, does this reflection have the validity of a primary source. O’Brien lived through horrific events during the Vietnam War, he suffered them first hand, and his experiences are recorded in his memories and retold later in his books. How reliable is his narrative about Vietnam....   [tags: Vietnam War, South Vietnam, Vietnam, Cold War]

Better Essays
1591 words (4.5 pages)

The Things They Carried By Tim O ' Brien Essay

- When people go to war, no matter where they fight, there have always been consequences in fighting on the battlefield and fighting for their country. Whether it be the soldiers come back with a horrifying case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, finding their lives pointless and committing suicide or dying on the battlefield, the consequences are usually pretty bad. This is no exception to the novel The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, with all of the soldiers that he mentions having some sort of flaw in them that they inherited before or after the war....   [tags: Vietnam War, Posttraumatic stress disorder]

Better Essays
1411 words (4 pages)

The Things They Carried By Tim O ' Brien Essay

- War is the cause of many issues caused around the world, but it also has changed countless lives. Each person involved in war has been affected in a different way; either themselves or their family. But in the book The Things They Carried by Tim O 'Brien, he gives the view of war from many different men and a woman that were involved in the Vietnam war. Throughout the book O 'Brien shows how the war affected people mentally and physically, but the war wasn 't as bad as some people thought it could have been....   [tags: Vietnam War, United States, Personal life]

Better Essays
1186 words (3.4 pages)

The Things They Carried By Tim O ' Brien Essay

- Stories can save us. Each day we live our lives we are given the chance to believe and tell stories. In Tim O’Brien’s novel, The Things They Carried, we are able to get a more personal approach on the ways in which the soldiers coped with the unforgettable memories and images; that would be with them for the rest of their lives. No matter how tough these men were, they were not physically, mentally, or emotionally prepared for what the Vietnam War had in store for them. At the beginning, the narrator O’Brien says, “for the most part they carried themselves with poise, a kind of dignity” (20)....   [tags: Death, English-language films, Army, Vietnam War]

Better Essays
1091 words (3.1 pages)

The Things They Carried By Tim O ' Brien Essays

- Extra Baggage The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is a novel about a platoon stationed in Vietnam between 1955 to 1975. O’Brien uses his novel to tell his war stories and the war stories of the men he fought with. The novel hold true to it’s title as it repeatedly talks about the baggage carried by the men. Although O’Brien does go into detail of what the men trucked along the trails of Vietnam with them, the physical baggage is not the main focus of the story. The emotional baggage carried by the men makes the novel....   [tags: Short story, Novel, A Story]

Better Essays
1307 words (3.7 pages)

The Things They Carried By Tim O ' Brien Essay

- Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Einstein’s words describe everyday life and specifically apply to soldiers in Vietnam who repeatedly fought for lives every day. In the novel The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, the character, Rat Kiley, an American soldier fighting in Vietnam, experiences this insanity because of repeatedly patching up soldiers. When it is his turn to be patched up, no one is there to be his saving grace, so he takes this matter into his own hands....   [tags: Vietnam War, Army, Vietnam, Insanity]

Better Essays
1233 words (3.5 pages)

The Things They Carried By Tim O ' Brien Essay

- The Vietnam War was a traumatic experience for everyone that fought on the ground. American soldiers were up close and personal with the Viet Cong (enemy) which made them live in constant fear for their lives. They never knew how they would die or when they would take their last breath, and this thought was always in the back of their minds. The Vietnam War was very brutal, and the amount of death from both sides was enormous. Tim O’Brien’s story “The Things They Carried” is an accurate description of the Vietnam War....   [tags: Vietnam War, South Vietnam, Viet Cong, Army]

Better Essays
1382 words (3.9 pages)

Essay on The Things They Carried By Tim O ' Brien

- In the novel, The Things They Carried written by author, Tim O’Brien the Vietnam war has an overpowering effect on the young soldiers who are forced into fighting in it. The war effects each of these characters in different ways and changes their lives and how they see the world forever. Some of these characters survive the war itself but the long lasting effects on them mentally and emotionally, are too much to bear after coming home to a community that they no longer feel they belong in. It effected some of them so much it had a heavy influence on whether they even came home at all....   [tags: Vietnam War, Vietnam, Latin honors]

Better Essays
903 words (2.6 pages)