Something A Soldier Ignores: Death
Fatalities are part of every person’s life. To a normal citizen, death is often followed by sadness and grief. As portrayed in “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, a soldier has to deal with the situation much differently. Death is portrayed in a negative light due to the fact that soldiers are greatly fearful of it and that they are forced to be unaffected by death. In order to cope with all the deaths he witnessed, O’Brien uses the retelling of war stories to heal from these traumatic events. Throughout the novel, death is definitely portrayed as being a very negative part of war. Because it is such a negative thing, death tends to instill fear in soldiers. From the beginning of the novel, death is truly portrayed as being a very negative risk that anyone at war deals with: “Beyond all this, or at the very center, was the raw fact of terror. I did not want to die. Not ever” (44). It is known that death could be the outcome of going to war, and many of these young soldiers do not want to die. Even though many soldiers end up going to war anyway, they are still fearful of death being a possible outcome for them. All of this fear and anxiety associated with war ultimately leads most people to view death in a negative light. It is definitely something that soldiers want to avoid, and even if they are not killed, death still has negative affects on them. In addition to death being portrayed in a negative light from the beginning of the novel, the soldiers are forced to be unaffected by death. As a result, it is seen how war changes people in a negative way. Once the war is all over, the negative affects are still present, and O’Brien deals with them through retelling the past. It is seen that anyone that becomes involved in war eventually learns to be unaffected by death when one of the soldiers’ girlfriends comes to visit. She never leaves...
05 November 2012
O’Brien’s Theme of Rejection and Disconnect
Why does O’Brien use the theme of rejection to convey his experience in war? In the book, The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien writes about his experience in the Vietnam War. He uses many themes to show how the war has changed the soldiers and how the citizens perceive the war. Throughout the book, he uses the theme of rejection to show the disconnection between the soldiers at war and the citizens at home. O’Brien defines the relationship among the soldiers from the beginning of war to the end. He shows the struggle and hardship of returning to everyday life and the acceptance of society. Rejection is a reoccurring theme that O’Brien uses, it helps the reader understand what went on in the war and the way societies’ views the war.
The disconnection between the soldiers at war and the citizens at home is the most important example of rejection that O’Brien uses to further explain his experience in war. O’Brien begins to talk about a true war story and how it makes the stomach believe. He says that Curt Lemon stepped on a booby-trap while playing with Rat Kiley and instantly died.
Curt Lemon was dead. Rat Kiley had lost his best friend in the world. Later in the week he would write a long personal letter to the guy’s sister, who would not write back, but for now it was a question of pain. (79)
This quote is a great...
Literature and Composition
The Heavy Burden of Memories
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien and The Road by Cormac McCarthy both deal with the profound affects that memories have upon the actions and understandings of men. In both novels memories weigh heavily on the main characters’ souls, but each man carries that burden differently. The results may vary but the impact of what has happened and what is remembered changes their perspectives and ultimately leads to a unique ending for each man. Do the memories that are carried shape or change the people involved and the understanding of the certain situations?
In the novel The Things They Carried Tim O’Brien not only carries his memories from home and at war, but also he carries the stories from all the men who fought beside him. Tim has many stories throughout the book that directly link to his own problems and memories from before, during, and after the war. Just reading the emotions in each story shows how much Tim has struggled with scars and memories of everyone he has listened to. He states, “the thing about remembering is that you don’t forget” (O'Brien 33). Remembering becomes a responsibility and a duty to hold and share even if the rest of the world does not want to hear.
Tim O’Brien recoils when he receives his draft notice in the mail. He is shocked and believes that he is too smart...
...Backpack of Life
Some feelings and events in life are easy to express and explain, a funny joke or a humorous anecdote, even the taste of a beloved food. There are however, certain subjects and emotions that are not as easily described and spoken about. These subjects are only fully experienced as they happen. In the novel The Things They Carried, the author Tim O’Brien makes an effective attempt to bring the feelings and emotions of the Vietnam War to the reader. The characters Mary Anne, Linda, and Kathleen serve as symbols of his efforts. Using these characters O’Brien conveys the life-changing effects the war held, his attempts to bring those people and events back to life, and just how misunderstood it is from the eyes of the generations to follow.
Many of O’Brien’s stories contain more of a sense of emotional truth than what actually went on. In “Sweetheart Of The Song Tra Bong” O’Brien does just that, whether or not the story is true, the emotions projected are real. O’Brien is showing that the severe kind of dramatic change the reader sees in Mary Anne could have befallen anyone involved in the war. Mary Anne’s transformation begins innocently, “the war intrigued her. The land too, and the mystery”, naively stating “it can’t be that bad […] they’re human beings aren’t they? Like everybody else?” (92). O’Brien shows this playful innocent side of her first in order to eventually juxtapose the completely new character depicted...
...Vietnam War carried more than their fair share of tangible and intangible items. The soldiers bore the weight of their packs, they lugged around heavy equipment, and they struggled to cope with the violence and death that surrounded them. But the heaviest item that they would bear would not be by choice at all. Every passing day that the soldiers served in this war, more weight would be added to this item. When the time came for the soldiers to return home, they laid down their heavy packs, they returned the equipment that belonged to their government, and they waited on the “Freedom Bird” that would carry them safely home to their loved ones. However, the heaviest item, the weight of the intangible emotion, could never be laid down, given back, or taken off. One critical analysis of Tim O’Brien’s short story “The Things They Carried” says, “The weight under which the men struggle cannot be lightened by the discarding of war equipment for it extends far beyond the physical reminders” (Korb, par. 6). “The Things They Carried” invites the reader to sympathize with the soldiers’ inability to shake off the intangible weight of emotion while shedding the tangible weight of the things they carried.
The tangible form of weight, or the weight that can be touched, is defined by Webster’s Dictionary in the noun form as, “The standard or established amount that a...
3 March 2013
Shell Shock: A Bloodless Battlefield
A storyteller of war, Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried, keeps the reader mesmerized with PTSD stories of the Vietnam War.
This novel represents a compound documentary written on accounts of the Vietnam War. Many of the stories in this book encompass various examples of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. There are graphical depictions of PTSD symptoms with references to recurring nightmares, intrusive thoughts, hypersensitivity, avoidance behavior, memories, and feelings. These signs of stress disorder are evident in the author and his characters in almost all of his short stories.
In the story “Speaking of Courage,” Norman Bowker has dreams and fantasizes about talking to his ex-girlfriend, who is now married to another guy. As he drives around in his neighborhood in his father’s Chevy, he imagines talking to Sally. “How’s being married?” he might ask, and he’d nod at whatever she answered with, and he would not say a word about how he’d almost won a Silver Star for valor” (134). In this statement, Norman Bowker is having intrusive thoughts about Sally Kramer. This is one of the many occurrences that Bowker suffers during this chapter. He has multiple hallucinations about how things would have been like if he had not suffered through the war. He desperately needs someone to talk to. Since Sally is...
...you don't care for obscenity, you don't care for the truth; and if you don't care for the truth, watch how you vote. Send guys to war, they come home talking dirty" (O'Brien 69).
Drawing on your reading, knowledge, and experience, write a carefully reasoned essay defending, challenging, or qualifying O'Brien's view of the relationship between truth and obscenity.
Obscenity in Truth
Truth and obscenity have a direct correlation, even in everyday life. This is especially true for war stories. The truth in war is very obscene and hard to believe, people change from their normal being and transform into something that helps them survive. Because war stories are so unpredictable and shocking, it leaves the common person to see these soldiers as crazy and obscene, but this can also be true for crimes in cities too. Derrion Albert, a sixteen year old boy, was beaten to death in a melee by other boys in Chicago. The reason this death is obscene is because he was an honor student and not even a part of the problem. He was just a good kid caught in a bad place at an extremely bad time. This is just one of the many examples of the truth being obscene that occur daily. Tim O'Brien states in The Things They Carried that a truth is obscene; this is shown through the behavior of the characters Curt Lemon and Rat Kiley, as well as the behavior changes of some of the other soldiers.
To begin with, O’Brien introduces the...
The Things They Carry Essay
Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried is a classic novel that depicts the lives of foot soldiers during the Vietnam War. O’ Brien explores the emotional and physical suffering of the men, the lost of innocence, the loss of morality, and the absurdity of the U.S. involvement of this war through a number of literary devices. Through a series of short stories, Tim O’Brien tells the story of the men he has met and the reality of war from his perspective.
The Vietnam War initially started when Ho Chi Minh, a nationalist leader of Vietnam, declared Vietnam and independent country from France. This was spurred on by the spread of communism from China. The French were forced out of Vietnam and Vietnam became separate, communists in the north and the French supporters in the south. The south grew increasingly weak, the communists stronger, and the United States felt it was time to intervene for the fear of the spread of communism, known as the “domino theory.” When America joined the war, they thought it would’ve been an easy win, but Vietnam used guerilla warfare and the war dragged on for over 18 years. As first, people supported the war and the idea of stopping communism, but as more and more soldiers got killed, the number of protests increased. The horrors he experienced as a soldier of this unexpected war is what inspired Tim O’Brien’s The Things They...
...The Things They Carried in “The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brien
In “The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brien the theme of “carrying” both physical and emotional objects by the main characters can be found in the novel. While these men carry the same standard physical army gear, they differentiate with personal tangible and intangible items. From Lieutenant Cross’s responsibility of his men, to Henry Dobbin’s girlfriend’s pantyhose for its magic, each man faced the war with these things attached.
Jimmy Cross being the immature lieutenant is affected being responsible of his men, and carries much of the war’s burden. Every time one of Cross’s men dies, he experiences deep regrettable feelings that he should have been a better leader to have prevented his death. The death of Ted Lavender is carried heavily by Cross, because he was distracted by the thoughts of his love, Martha. Yet again, Cross feels he should have been a better leader. Jimmy Cross also carries the picture of Martha, and the “lucky” pebble from the woman who does not return the love or talk of the war in their exchange of letters. Martha’s picture can represent Cross’s escape to his life before the war, and his hopeful thoughts for after the war. These emotions of guilt and loss are still carried by Jimmy Cross after the war.
Henry Dobbins was one of the bigger fellows of...