Overview: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

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The Things They Carried is a novel written by Vietnam Veteran Tim O’Brien. The Vietnam War took place between 1955 and 1975. Most of the soldiers fighting were young teenage men around the age of eighteen and nineteen years old. Like O’Brien many of these young men were pulled away from their families and life to fight a war they didn’t approve of or even know about. This had a strong affect on most of these men and O’Brien uses different ways to show how the Vietnam War affected them both physically and mentally. In order to display these affects he constantly relates different things in battle to a normal life back at home. Through the use of storytelling, fear, and physical and emotional burdens, O’Brien creates a certain environment…show more content…
Once reality kicks in that the loved one is actually gone you start to think about all the memories you had with them. You tell multiple stories about the good times you had with them and in a way that’s what keeps them alive. Just like O’Brien states at the end of The Lives of the Dead, the dead live. One of the things all the soldiers can relate to is how fear acted as motivation throughout the war. During a war if you ask a soldier how often they feel fear, most of the time the answer will be almost always. Most of these soldiers knew that they could be shot or blown up at anytime. O’Brien displays different stories about fear multiple times throughout the book, but he focuses on the fear of shame specifically. This was a powerful motivating factor throughout the war because a lot of them did not want to be portrayed as weak or cowardly. O’Brien displays the fear of shame in “On a Rainy River” when he first receives his draft letter. He sees himself facing to options, go to a war that he does not believe in or flee the country to Canada where he can start a new life. Either choice is life changing and is something that he needs to strongly consider before he makes his choice. While on a fishing trip with Elroy only minutes away from the Canadian border he realizes something. It’s not patriotism or the love of his country that motivates his choice but the fear of bringing shame upon himself and everyone he knows.
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