Essay about The Things They Carried

Essay about The Things They Carried

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Like an executive summary, many novels use the first chapter to introduce the major themes and contents of the work. An example of this technique is Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. In it, O'Brien uses the first chapter, "The Things They Carried," to introduce the characters and the tangible and intangible items they took with them and sometimes burdened over. He uses these possessions to thoroughly define the man carrying it. To these men, even in a war, it is not the machine guns and claymore mines that they prize to maintain their survival but items like pictures and pantyhose that help them remain sane and alive. Each man had his own needs and each man carried his own talisman, all in an effort to remain in the real world. These items eventually became the person carrying it. In this novel, O'Brien's successful portrayal of his war experiences was done by the use of distinguishing key characters and the things they carried to help identify the majorthemes of strength, weakness and confusion.

One of the first characters introduced is Henry Dobbins and because of his greatness in size, the reader assumes he is of great physical strength, lacking emotional potency. Using Dobbins, O'Brien slowly uncovers emotional strength learned through living the war. Dobbins was a "big man, [and] carried extra rations; he was especially fond of canned peaches in heavy syrup over pound cake," (4). This description portrays him as a gentle giant, one who likes to make the most out of life and enjoy the simple necessities life has to offer. His kind personality and friendliness brought him strength within the mind and strength for and from his comrades. In addition, Dobbins carries himself as the calm one, one who can keep his composure ...


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...lot of war veterans, a confusion that illuminates the mind and eventually lead to self-destructing acts. The theme of confusion looms in and out of The Things They Carried as a setback of living the life of war.

O'Brien's choice of character to reflect the novel's major themes was decided by his personal experiences of the war. As a war veteran, during the war there were times when he was strong, times when he was weak, and after the war a time when he was confused. But by writing this novel, O'Brien is able to let out his thoughts, allowing him to objectify his experiences andseparate it from himself. He identifies the major thematic events in his life with various characters in his novel and uses them to discover himself. By including these small introductions in the first chapter, O'Brien provides a road map to the novel which provides blueprints to his life.

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