This work of art is a war story, with love, tragedy and personal responsibility, giving details of what one carries, survives and ponders during events that take place out of our control. The Thing Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien depicts human beings just like us that don’t get a choice of what happens around us but how to survive with the things we hold dear that help us make it through. It also shares with us the fear, risk and aftermath of the death of one of their men and the personal responsibility the narrator feels as the loss of one of the men under his care.
The setting of the story is integral as it takes place in the village of Than Khe. The war of Vietnam was a tragic, messy war that affected many lives. The setting brings readers to a geographic location that these and countless other men have spent months and years experiencing life and death, tragedy and camaraderie, fear, loss and the ultimate test of character and strength. Without it, the story wouldn’t have the same effect.
The use of vivid, descriptions and imagery of the things each soldier has with him gives the readers a better understanding of what the weight load and burden these men underwent. The author describes to us the necessities of what they carried:
“The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wrist-watches, dog tags, mosquito repellant, chewing gym, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water.” (626-627)
Not only did they carry these things, but each man had specific t...
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.... He would insist on clean weapons. He would confiscate the remainder of Lavender’s dope.”(636)
Tim O’Brien’s story depicts human nature of mistakes, guilt, humility, personal responsibility and things we can safeguard against. It doesn’t always mean that we can control life’s events, but we can make choices to prevent these things. It also shows how we cope with the difficult challenges that we face. Lieutenant Jimmy Cross uses Martha to cope, while Ted Lavender uses dope. Henry Dobbins uses food, while Kiowa relies on his faith. The story gives us insight on war, but also insight on human nature itself.
Literature, An introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing, X.J. Kennedy, Dana Gioia, The Things We Carried pg 625
How To Tell A True War Story” Metafiction in The Things They Carried, Catherine Calloway, http://web.ebscohost.com
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