Death in the Things they Carried

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Death has many different effects on a person’s life. Some can handle it very well, but most of time, people cannot deal with the grief that comes with the death.For example, some people can accept the death that comes with life and move forward, but on the flip side, some people cannot accept and are stuck in that deep dark hole. many of us cannot Tim O’Brien in The Things They Carried, deals with death in a different way, he writes stories. However, O’Briens stories are not just about his war experiences, instead the stories talk about how he and the members of his army team dealt with the deaths of their mates and their home life experiences after the war. O’Brien describes this very well. O.Brien’s message about death in The Things They Carried is that death can be worthless and superfluous.

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First, death is worthless and superfluous when O’Brien describes the event in which he killed his first man in Vietnam. He begins this story The Man I Killed by vividly describing how the man looks after he killed him with a grenade. O’Brien recalls that the man’s jaw was in is throat, and his upper lip and teeth were gone (79). In the following story, Ambush, O’Brien tells us how he actually killed the man. While his roommate, Kiowa, was sleeping, he saw a man emerge from the fog. Off of instinct, O’Brien reached for his grenade, pulled the plug, and threw it towards the man. The man began to run, but he was not fast enough, and the grenade exploded. The next morning, O’Brien goes to find the body and this is when the worthlessness of death comes in on O’Brien. He soon realizes that, while his mates were making jokes about the body, that he made a mistake. He begins to think to himself if he really did do the right thing. This shows the effects of war on the men. However, Kiowa tries to comfort him by saying Would you rather trade places with him? (80). Still, O’Brien cannot deal with this act that he did and still thinks that death is worthless. This is how death is worthless when O’Brien killed his first man.

Second, death is worthless and superfluous in the death of nine year old Linda. O’Brien talks about his elementary school lover, Linda, in the closing story, The Lives of the Dead. Linda always wore a red cap and a lot of kids in class would make fun of her. O’Brien took Linda out on a movie date and after the movie was over, the young O’brien knew that he just loved her (146). A few days later at school, a kid took of Linda’s hat, revealing that she had very little hair. O’Brien reveals later that Linda died of a brain tumor and she lived through the summer and the first part of September, and then she was dead (152). Even at forty-three years old, O’Brien still imagines Linda in his dreams. This is yet another example of how death is superfluous. Linda was only nine years old and had the best years of her life ahead of her. This a this type of death that everyone hates to read about because why would such a young girl die in an unnecessary way. This is how death is worthless in the death of O’Brien’s elementary school lover Linda.

Last, death is worthless and superfluous in the death of Curt Lemon. Even though O’Brien did not know Lemon the best, it still was a very superfluous way for him to die. While on a break from climbing the mountains, Lemon and his friend, Rat Kiley, started to goof around. The two would always play this game called yellow mother. The object of the game was simple, do not let the smoke grenade go off in your hands. To play the game, one of the two pulls the pin on the smoke grenade and they play catch. Whoever would chicken out would be the mother yellow. If no one called yellow mother, the grenade would make a light popping sound and the two would be covered in smoke and they’d laugh and dance (43). Lemon and Kiley were having when all of sudden, someone stepped on a detonator. O’Brien later tells us that Lemon stepped on a rigged mortar and that is what called the explosion. O’Brien also tells us that he has to clean up and find the limbs and other body parts scattered in the trees. This is yet another example of worthless death. Curt Lemon was just taking a break, having fun with his friend when his life took a turn for the worst. O’Brien explains that this death really hit home with all of his mates. They all realized that war is not a joking matter and that most of the deaths will be worthless and superfluous.

In conclusion, O’Brien views death as being worthless and superfluous. In The Things They Carried, O’Brien explains how death is worthless in a few stories. In these stories, O’Brien deals with the death in his life by writing because it is always better to communicate your feelings in some way rather than bottling them up. At the end of the book, O’Brien says that the dead still live, even if they have died in that worthless way. O’Brien does find relief in writing these stories because it is his way of telling everyone how the Vietnam War truly was. This is how death is worthless and superfluous in The Things They Carried.

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Death in The Things They Carried. (2019, Apr 11). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from

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