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? Personal narratives, like O’Brian’s, have historical value as they give the reader a unique perspective of the war. Can the reader learn anything of value from a recollection of atrocities written years later? O’Brien does not give facts, dates of events, or specific locations, what he gives the reader is a front line position of the war and how it affected him as a human being. Tim O’Brien’s accounts of the Vietnam War is a valid source of historical events because he allows the reader inside his head, he allows his reader to feel his innermost fears, he allows the reader to experience the death of others as he did, he allows his reader to feel his emotions, he allows his reader to experience his account of the war that they do not get in history books.
Much of what we read about the Vietnam War includes specific details such as the reason America went to war with Vietnam, how many soldiers went to war, how many died and how many came home. We also learn in history books where North and South Vietnam are located, who the generals of both sides were and who won the war. This information is found in government documents, and military papers outlining the cost in dollars and souls. There is another source of historical evidence, i...
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...e effects the psychological trauma had on many. History books do not discuss the human being, the individual’s fears, or tests of faith they have to endure. What a history book tells readers is the facts, figures, dates, winners and losers. History books are impersonal and the research is based on documents and the accounts of others as well as their biases. O’Brien has biases too; however, that does not dismiss his firsthand account of the war or the retelling of what he saw years ago. His book is worthy of being considered a historical account of the Vietnam War because he was there, he witnessed the atrocities, he witnessed the loss of life, he witnessed soldiers inability to continue fighting the war and the psychological effect it had on some of them. So regardless of the method of retelling his experience, O’Brien’s account of the war is truly historical.
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