The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, transports the reader into the minds of veterans of the Vietnam conflict. The Vietnam War dramatically changed Tim O’Brien and his comrades, making their return home a turbulent and difficult transition. The study, titled, The War at Home: Effects of Vietnam-Era Military Service on Post-War Household Stability, uses the draft lottery as a “natural experiment” on the general male population. The purpose of the NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research) study is to determine the psychological effects of the Vietnam War on its veterans. In order to do this, they tested four conditions, marital stability, residential stability, housing tenure, and extended family living. However, it neglects the internal ramifications of war that a soldier grapples with in determining whether they are “normal” in their post-war lives. Thus, effects such as alienation from society, insecurity in their daily lives, and the mental trauma that persist decades after the war are not factored in. After reading the NBER study, it is evident that Tim O’Brien intentionally draws the reader to the post-war psychological effects of Vietnam that may not manifest themselves externally. He does this to highlight that while the Vietnam war is over, the war is still raging in the minds of those involved decades later, and will not dissipate until they can expunge themselves of the guilt and blame they feel from the war, and their actions or inaction therein.
Norman Bawker’s experience in the war in Vietnam is one that renders him completely helpless afterward. During his campaign, he was a good, quiet soldier, who won seven medals, but he would never forgive himself for the one he didn’t win, the Silver Star...
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...eing a war story, The Things They Carried is a human story, a story which at its core, delves into intrapersonal and emotional repercussions of warfare that only a story written by one of the war’s own can be properly crafted.
Conley, Dalton, and Jennifer Heerwig. United States. National Bureau of Economic Research. War at Home: Effects of Vietnam-Era Military Service on Post-War Household Stabilty. Cambridge, MA: , 2011. Web.
O'Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Print.
Interview by Neal Conan. "'The Things They Carried,' 20 Years On." Talk of the Nation. . NPR, Washington. 24 Mar 2010. Web. 13 Apr 2014. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125128156.
"Rising Star Tim O'Brien." Texas State University. Texas State University. Web. 11 Apr 2014.
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