“One day you are having lunch with some guys from another unit, trading stories about home and what you’re gonna do when you get back to the world. And then the next day they’re dead” writes Afghanistan veteran and retired US Army Corporal Eric Porter. He goes on to describe how war transforms a person, “Your view of the world changes, you have seen and done things no other person in the world would understand besides you and your fellow brothers at war” (Personal Communication, October 20, 2016). With great frequency, one encounters a veteran wearing a baseball cap that says “Vietnam Veteran”. A sullen, bearded face or a bright eyed warrior with wrinkles that tell friends’ death stories— each veteran must learn to process and cope with what he has seen. Violence destroys sanity in every war, but it is not the only culprit. Each major modern American conflict had its own calling card, an individual characteristic that in itself could cause nightmares, but when coupled with violence, irreversibly alters minds. In World War I, it was the trenches, an unsanitary formidable enemy of both sides. In World War II, it was the concentration camps, bastions for sub-human treatment of those a deranged leader viewed as inferior. In Vietnam, it was the jungle, and the various problems associated with guerilla warfare in such a diverse and unforgiving habitat. In his fictional piece The Things They Carried, Vietnam Veteran Tim O’brien uses stories to illustrate the realities of war.
Click here to unlock this and over one million essaysGet Access
To be engaged in war is to be engaged in an armed conflict. Death is an all too ordinary product of war. It is an unsolicited reward for many soldiers that are fighting for their country’s own fictitious freedom. For some of these men, the battlefield is a glimpse into hell, and for others, it is a means to heaven. Many people worry about what happens during war and what will become of their loved ones while they’re fighting, but few realize what happens to those soldiers once they come home. The short stories "Soldier's Home” by Ernest Hemingway and "Speaking of Courage” by Tim O'Brien explore the thematic after effects of war and how it impacts a young person's life. Young people who
In the fictional novel The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien vividly explains the fear and trauma the soldiers encountered during the Vietnam War. Many of these soldiers are very young and inexperienced. They begin to witness their acquaintances’ tragic demise, and kill other innocent lives on their own. Many people have a background knowledge on the basis of what soldiers face each day, but they don’t have a clear understanding of what goes through these individual’s minds when they’re at war. O’Brien gives descriptive details on the soldiers’ true character by appealing to emotions, using antithesis and imagery.
They carry many things, they carry a massive amount of weight on their shoulders. However, the heaviest thing that they carry cannot be touched. The intangible weight of fear, loss, anger, and guilt far outweigh any tangible item that they could possibly possess. The Thing They Carried is not only an eye-opening collection of war stories, but it is also a love story, a memoir, and a tribute to the unimaginable things that happen to our soldiers in war zones. War changes men, makes them different, and when they come home they are not the same person and they often have trouble readjusting to the life of a civilian.
Written by author Tim O’Brien after his own experience in Vietnam, “The Things They Carried” is a short story that introduces the reader to the experiences of soldiers away at war. O’Brien uses potent metaphors with a third person narrator to shape each character. In doing so, the reader is able to sympathize with the internal and external struggles the men endure. These symbolic comparisons often give even the smallest details great literary weight, due to their dual meanings. The symbolism in “The Things They Carried” guides the reader through the complex development of characters by establishing their humanity during the inhumane circumstance of war, articulating what the men need for emotional and spiritual survival, and by revealing
Through The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien moves beyond the horror of fighting in the Vietnam War to examine with sensitivity and insight the nature of courage and fear. Included, is a collection of interrelated stories. A few of the stories are brutal, while others are flawed, blurring the distinction between fact and fiction. All the stories, however, deal with one platoon. Some are about the wartime experiences of soldiers, and others are about a 43-year-old writer reminiscing about his platoon’s experiences. In the beginning chapter, O’Brien rambles about the items the soldiers carry into battle, ranging from can openers, pocketknives, and mosquito repellent o
The Things They Carried offered a unique and personal look into the life of one soldier’s experience. It showed how the war held obligations to its soldiers and expectations for each of the men to follow. The Things They Carried also showed a side of war that was not always seen in other documents and accounts such as Tim O’Brien thoughts and feelings during the war. However, many of the things O’Brien stated throughout his book is very similar to the experiences shared by men in the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Moreover, despite some similarities, each war is unique and have their own distinctive causes and effects that have solidified their importance in American history. When it comes to war, it seems that most experiences
In The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien uses the art of fabricating stories as a coping mechanism. Trying to distinguish the difference between fictional and factual stories is a challenge in this book, but literal truth cannot capture the real violence that the soldiers dealt with in Vietnam, only “story truth” can. He explains, “If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made victim of a very old and terrible lie.” (O’Brien 65). The novel illustrates that storytelling is a way to keep the dead alive, even if it may not be a true story.
There are two types of people that fight in wars; those who consider their patriotic duty an honor and those who entered the war by force. In 1990, twenty years after returning from the Vietnam War, Tim O’Brien published The Things They Carried, a disturbing and remorseful collection of short stories that gives detailed, yet fictional, accounts of the horrific events that occurred during the war. Later in 2012, after his tour of duty, Chris Kyle released American Sniper, a humble and passionate memoir that describes what Kyle had to face during his tour. While The Things They Carried utilizes symbolism and similes to inform the reader about the horrors of war, American Sniper uses flashbacks and imagery to demonstrate that some people “come alive” during the war.
The text, The Things They Carried', is an excellent example which reveals how individuals are changed for the worse through their first hand experience of war. Following the lives of the men both during and after the war in a series of short stories, the impact of the war is accurately portrayed, and provides a rare insight into the guilt stricken minds of soldiers. The Things They Carried' shows the impact of the war in its many forms: the suicide of an ex-soldier upon his return home; the lessening sanity of a medic as the constant death surrounds him; the trauma and guilt of all the soldiers after seeing their friends die, and feeling as if they could have saved them; and the deaths of the soldiers, the most negative impact a war
While the Vietnam War was a complex political pursuit that lasted only a few years, the impact of the war on millions of soldiers and civilians extended for many years beyond its termination. Soldiers killed or were killed; those who survived suffered from physical wounds or were plagued by PTSD from being wounded, watching their platoon mates die violently or dealing with the moral implications of their own violence on enemy fighters. Inspired by his experiences in the war, Tim O’Brien, a former soldier, wrote The Things They Carried, a collection of fictional and true war stories that embody the
Unlike most war stories, in Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” the war in Vietnam is not glorified and instead, the story is believable and raw. The horrors of war that Lieutenant Jimmy Cross and his squadron experience in an unfiltered, yet emotionally detached way that molds the structure and the language. This story, through its structure and techniques, displays the idea of how disillusionment and loss of innocence create unimaginable burdens for the American soldiers. O’Brien portrays the characters’ burdens with a monotonous and lulling tone through the use of flashbacks, setting, imagery, and metonymy.
Young men who are sent to a war learn the reality in a very harsh and brutal way. Both the stories, ‘The Red Convertible’ and ‘The Things They Carried’ portray the life of a young soldier and how he psychologically gets affected from all the things he had seen in the war. Tim O’Brien’s ‘The Things They Carried,’ is more specific on the experiences of a soldier during a war where as Karen Louise Erdrich focuses more on describing the post war traumatic stress in her short story ‘The Red Convertible’. One thing similar in both the narrations is the Vietnam War and its consequences on the soldiers. From the background of both the authors it’s easy to conclude that Tim O’Brien being a war veteran emphasizes more on the
Most authors who write about war stories write vividly; this is the same with Tim O’Brien as he describes the lives of the soldiers by using his own experiences as knowledge. In his short story “The Things They Carried” he skillfully reveals realistic scenes that portray psychological, physical and mental burdens carried by every soldier. He illustrates these burdens by discussing the weights that the soldiers carry, their psychological stress and the mental stress they have to undergo as each of them endure the harshness and ambiguity of the Vietnam War. One question we have to ask ourselves is if the three kinds of burdens carried by the soldier’s are equal in size? “As if in slow motion, frame by frame, the world would take on the old
Growing up, many young boys idolized the war heroes in movies such as Saving Private Ryan and American Sniper. However, the glorified heroism that is depicted in these films is far from the reality that is war. A more realistic rendition of war is seen in Tim O’Brien’s short story, The Things They Carried. Throughout the story, O’Brien uses metafictional characters to portray the physical and emotional burdens carried by American soldiers who were forced to conform to societal expectations upon being drafted for the Vietnam War. The literary elements O’Brien uses throughout the story to convey this theme are symbolism, imagery, tone, and inner conflict of the protagonist.
It can be hard to fully comprehend the effects the Vietnam War had on not just the veterans, but the nation as a whole. The violent battles and acts of war became all too common during the long years of the conflict. The war warped the soldiers and civilians characters and desensitized their mentalities to the cruelty seen on the battlefield. Bao Ninh and Tim O’Brien, both veterans of the war, narrate their experiences of the war and use the loss of love as a metaphor for the detrimental effects of the years of fighting.