Essay on The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Essay on The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

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The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien


“The Things They Carried” was a story about soldiers caught in the confusion of the Vietnam War. There are a lot of apparent themes that are dealt with when writing a story about war, especially about death. I enjoyed reading this story; however there were some things about it that I was concerned about. I would like to discuss the author’s style of writing, his meaning of the title “The Things They Carried” and the way the author and his characters deal with death. This story was written with a variety of styles, and it was in a non-traditional format. The main style seems to be a third person, limited omniscient story. However, this story also includes elements of flashback. In a traditional flashback however, the character having the flashback usually is telling the story, the flashback or past events is told only once, and then we view the character or characters revelations afterwards. This story breaks all of the rules of the traditional flashback. In the story, a comrade dies, Ted Lavender. The event of his death is retold 4 or 5 times within the story, from all different angles. For some readers who read this for the first time, especially myself, this was very confusing. It’s almost as if the story is being told as a movie, where we are supposed to have some visual reference as to where we are in the story.

Another element that was confusing is that if the reader has no knowledge of famous or foreign wars, the reader would not know that this is set in the Vietnam War. The word Vietnam is not mentioned until later on in the story. This story could have easily been set in WWII, since this war did deal with some of the Far East countries. The story did have a ‘modern’ feel to i...


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...n. However, it amazes me that these soldiers can even mask their true emotions in the face of their friend dying.

I do appreciate the fact that the author points out the true feelings of the characters, even though their actions do not represent these feelings. Again, “The Things They Carried” is a very interesting story. It’s a very powerful story and it brings a lot of personality and emotion into view. I found out later in a short biography that the author was actually in the Vietnam War, and he returned home on an honorable discharge. This really means that he wrote the story with a personal experience of the Vietnam War. This also makes a reader wonder what in the story was in his personal experience, and what was actually fiction. In any case, the story was written to be an accurate view of the story, and to provide a microscope into these soldier’s lives.

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