Essay PreviewMore ↓
Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried is not a novel about the Vietnam War. “It is a story about the soldiers and their experiences and emotions that are brought about from the war” (King 182). O'Brien makes several statements about war through these dynamic characters. He shows the violent nature of soldiers under the pressures of war, he makes an effective antiwar statement, and he comments on the reversal of a social deviation into the norm. By skillfully employing the stylistic technique of specific, conscious detail selection and utilizing connotative diction, O'Brien thoroughly and convincingly makes each point.
The violent nature that the soldiers acquired during their tour in Vietnam is one of O'Brien's predominant themes in his novel. By consciously selecting very descriptive details that reveal the drastic change in manner within the men, O'Brien creates within the reader an understanding of the effects of war on its participants. One of the soldiers, "Norman Bowler, otherwise a very gentle person, carried a Thumb. . .The Thumb was dark brown, rubbery to touch. . . It had been cut from a VC corpse, a boy of fifteen or sixteen"(O'Brien 13). Bowler had been a very good-natured person in civilian life, yet war makes him into a very hard-mannered, emotionally devoid soldier, carrying about a severed finger as a trophy, proud of his kill. The transformation shown through Bowler is an excellent indicator of the psychological and emotional change that most of the soldiers undergo. To bring an innocent young man from sensitive to apathetic, from caring to hateful, requires a great force; the war provides this force. However, frequently are the changes more drastic. A soldier named "Ted Lavender adopted an orphaned puppy. . .Azar strapped it to a Claymore antipersonnel mine and squeezed the firing device"(O'Brien 39). Azar has become demented; to kill a puppy that someone else has adopted is horrible. However, the infliction of violence has become the norm of behavior for these men; the fleeting moment of compassion shown by one man is instantly erased by another, setting order back within the group. O'Brien here shows a hint of sensitivity among the men to set up a startling contrast between the past and the present for these men. The effect produced on the reader by this contrast is one of horror; therefore fulfilling O'Brien's purpose, to convince the reader of war's severely negative effects.
How to Cite this Page
"O'Brien's Things They Carried Essay: Experiences and Emotions." 123HelpMe.com. 18 Feb 2020
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
Wilfred Owen's Dulce Et Decorum Est, Tim OBrien's The Things They Carried, and Siegfried Sassoon's Suicide in the Trenches
- Wilfred Owen's Dulce Et Decorum Est, Tim OBrien's The Things They Carried, and Siegfried Sassoon's Suicide in the Trenches Many war pieces express a distinct sense of truth, hatred, and anger that can be found in the style, tone, and imagery they possess. Incredible images are created in ones mind as war writings are read and heard. Works written by such writers as Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, and Tim OBrien really reach out to the audience by way of the authors choice of words and images that they use in their writing.... [tags: Owen Dulce OBrien Carried Sassoon Essays]
1362 words (3.9 pages)
- Tim Obrien’s novel, “The Thing’s They Carried,” centralized on the belief that storytelling can save our lives. When stories are told we look for meaning within the stories. Stories affect people in many different ways, and sometimes trying to tell a whole story does not always tell the real truth. He uses storytelling to deal with the loss and grief he encountered during the Vietnam War. Although he is sharing his stories post-war, he challenges his readers in deciding which stories are actually considered true war stories.... [tags: Life, Emotion, Army, Death]
1261 words (3.6 pages)
- In Tim O”Briens short story, The Things They Carried, clearly depicts the things the soldiers carried in order to push through and the challenges they faced daily in order to survive, but there is such a greater meaning behind the story. Tim O’Brien speak from the heart and makes the story connect with the reader, which in fact, makes the physical things the soldiers carry an emotional burden as well. To make that easier he disguises actual real life events with fiction. The majority of his book is fiction with some real life scenarios intertwined.... [tags: Fiction, Short story, Character, Novel]
1588 words (4.5 pages)
- Regardless of whatever the situation may be if a man's will power is strong enough he will definitely prevail. "I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail... the poet's voice need not merely be the record of the man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.” William Faulkner’s speech in 1950 talks about the importance of emotions that man carries all throughout the difficult predicaments in life, all in which they surpass one after another, and Faulkner’s speech also talks about how a poet’s duty is to record all of the memorable moments of the life of man that are sometimes incomprehendable.... [tags: The things they carried, Tim O’Brien ]
852 words (2.4 pages)
- the things they carried truth The definition of truth is the epitome of what we we all perceive to be reality. Truth is what we sometimes think about in the back of our head, but we are unsure of whether this truth is really “true.” The objective correlative is another term that is used to refer to truth. The objective correlative is getting enough people to feel the same emotion and agree upon it. Objective correlative also refers to the objective truth or the facts. It’s trying to get the subjective truth to become objective, then subjective for each person.... [tags: Truth, Objective Fact, Literary Analysis]
2258 words (6.5 pages)
- The soldiers that fought in the Vietnam War had to endure many incredibly horrifying experiences. It was these events that led to great human emotions. It was those feelings that were the things they carried. Everything they carried affected on them whether it was physical or mental. Every thing they carried could in one-way or another cause them to emotionally or physically break down. Pain, loss, a sense of safety and fear were probably the most challenging emotional, and psychological feelings for them to carry.... [tags: The Things They Carried Essays]
1746 words (5 pages)
- Experiences and Emotions in The Things They Carried Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried is not a novel about the Vietnam War. “It is a story about the soldiers and their experiences and emotions that are brought about from the war” (King 182). O'Brien makes several statements about war through these dynamic characters. He shows the violent nature of soldiers under the pressures of war, he makes an effective antiwar statement, and he comments on the reversal of a social deviation into the norm. By skillfully employing the stylistic technique of specific, conscious detail selection and utilizing connotative diction, O'Brien thoroughly and convincingly makes each point.... [tags: Things They Carried Essays]
1608 words (4.6 pages)
- The Burden in The Things They Carried by O'Brien In "The Things They Carried," O'Brien made reference to the Vietnam war that was closely associated with the physical, psychological, and emotional weight the soldiers beared. The overall method of presentation of this story incorporated many different outlooks on the things the soldiers carried, dealt with, and were forced to adapt to. In addition to this, O'Brien showed us the many reasons why and how the soldiers posessed these things individually and collectively and how they were associated directly and indirectly. The strong historical content in "The Things They Carried" helped emphasize the focus of the story and establish a c... [tags: Things They Carried Essays O'Brien]
1060 words (3 pages)
- 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.... [tags: War Things Carried O'Brien]
1104 words (3.2 pages)
- Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried Culture teaches that men must dispense of ridiculous emotions and remain firm, following expected duties. O’Brien develops this theme of the transition from youth to manhood in his short story, “The Things They Carried.” Through the protagonist Jimmy Cross, metaphors of weight, and futile ideas of freedom, O’Brien reveals how society expects young men in transition to adulthood to let go of impractical idealism and dwell instead on the cruel reality of the world.... [tags: O'Brient Things They Carried Essays]
734 words (2.1 pages)
O'Brien's use of specific and connotative diction enhances the same theme, the loss of sensitivity and increase in violent behavior among the soldiers. The VC from which Bowker took the thumb was just "a boy"(O'Brien 13), giving the image of a young, innocent person who should not have been subjected to the horrors of war. The connotation associated with boy enhances the fact that killing has no emotional effect on the Americans, that they kill for sport and do not care who or what their game may be. Just as perverse as killing boys, though, is the killing of "a baby"(O'Brien 85), the connotation being associated with human infants even though it is used to describe a young water buffalo they torture. The idea of a baby is abstract, and the killing of one is frowned upon in modern society, regardless of species. O'Brien creates an attitude of disgust in the reader with the word, further fulfilling his purpose in condemning violence. Even more drastic in connotation to be killed is the "orphaned puppy"(O'Brien 39). Adding to the present idea of killing babies is the idea of killing orphaned babies, which brings out rage within the reader. The whole concept is metaphoric, based on the connotations of key words; nevertheless, it is extremely effective in conveying O'Brien's theme.
O'Brien makes a valid, effective antiwar statement in The Things They Carried. The details he includes give the reader insight into his opinions concerning the Vietnam War and the draft that was used to accumulate soldiers for the war. While thinking of escaping to Canada, he says: "I was drafted to fight a war I hated. . .The American war seemed to me wrong"(O'Brien 44). O'Brien feels that U.S. involvement in Vietnamese affairs was unnecessary and wasteful. He includes an account of his plan to leave the country because he did not want to risk losing his life for a cause he did not believe in. Here O'Brien shows the level of contempt felt towards the war; draft dodging is dangerous. He was not a radical antiwar enthusiast, however, for he takes "only a modest stand against the war"(O'Brien 44). While not condoning the fighting, he does not protest the war except for minimally, peacefully, and privately doing so. His dissatisfaction with the drafting process is included in his statement, "I was a liberal, for Christ's sake: if they needed fresh bodies, why not draft some back-to-the-stone-age-hawk?"(44). O'Brien's point of drafting only those who approve involvement in the war is clearly made while his political standpoint is simultaneously revealed. The liberal attitude O'Brien owns is very much a part of his antiwar theme; it is the axis around which his values concerning the war revolve.
The antiwar statement is enhanced by O'Brien's use of connotative and informal diction to describe the war, its belligerent advocates, and its participants. The connotation in the adjective American in describing the war seems as though O'Brien believes the Americans are making the war revolve around themselves, instead of the Vietnamese. While also criticizing Americans, he manages to once again question the necessity of United States involvement in the war. Also connotatively enhancing the antiwar theme is the word bodies to describe draftees; while an accurate evaluation scientifically, it gives the reader the impression that the young men that are being brought into the war to become statistics, part of a body count. O'Brien shows very effectively the massive destruction of innocent human life brought on by Vietnam. In contrast with his sympathy toward draftees, O'Brien utilizes informal, derogatory diction to describe the war's advocates. He labels his stereotype belligerent a "dumb jingo"(O'Brien 44), or moronic national pride enthusiast. By phrasing his views in such a manner, O'Brien is able to convey the idea that there is enough opposition to the war that a negative slang has been implemented frequently, hence the term dumb jingo. The skill with which O'Brien illustrates his views is very convincing throughout their development in the novel; his anti-belligerence focus is very effective.
The social deviance that has become the accepted norm in The Things They Carried is brought out by O'Brien in the form of the soldiers' drug usage. O'Brien wants to convey the idea of negative transitions brought about by the war with a statement about marijuana's public, widespread, carefree use in Vietnam. He includes several anecdotes that illustrate to which degree the substance is abused. A friend of O'Brien's, Ted Lavender, "carried six or seven ounces of premium dope"(O'Brien 4), which indicates not only the soldiers' familiarity with the drug, but their acquired knowledge of the quality of the drug. The discouragement of marijuana, as well as other drugs, was previously the accepted view of Americans; however, according to O'Brien, is has become the norm for Americans in Vietnam. The war has completely reversed their morals. Once they carried a corpse out to "a dry paddy. . .and sat smoking the dead man's dope until the chopper came. Lieutenant Cross kept to himself"(O'Brien 8). Even the squad's supervisor, the platoon leader Lieutenant Cross, is unaffected by the soldiers' blatant use of an illegal substance; he has become so used to the occurrence that he no longer condemns its use. For even a leader of men to be morally warped by the war is an effective idea in O'Brien's discouragement of war.
As George Carlin once said to a New York audience, "We love war. We are a warlike people, and therefore we love war"(McClung 92). This view is common today among Americans since the advent of long-distance warfare and bright, colorful explosions; however, in the guerrilla warfare of Vietnam, the grudging participants loathed the idea. Tim O'Brien very effectively portrays their hatred and the severe negative effects the war had on American soldiers in his excellent, convincing novel The Things They Carried. The skillful choice of details and several types of diction that reveal his theme of induced violence, his anti-war statement, and his view of the reversal of morals among GIs are effective in presenting O'Brien's views in this, "The Last War Novel"(McClung 96).
Works Cited and Consulted
Calloway, Catherine. "'How to Tell a True War Story': Metafiction in The Things They Carried." Studies in Contemporary Fiction 36.4 (1995): 249.
Kaplan, Steven. "The Undying Uncertainty of the Narrator in Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried." Studies in Contemporary Fiction. 35.1 (1993): 43. Expand
King, Rosemary. "O'Brien's 'How to Tell a True War Story.'" The Explicator. 57.3 (1999): 182.
Lopez, Ken. "Tim O'Brien: An Introduction to His Writing." Ken Lopez - Bookseller. 1997. 8 Oct 1999. <http://www.lopezbooks.com/articles/obrien.html>.
McClung, Scott, 'The last war novel', Internet review, October 1996. (Website now unavailable.)
O'Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried . New York: Broadway, 1990.