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...
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..., 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.
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