The Novel the Things they Carried and War

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War is a human activity that has been around since the dawn of time. One of the most memorable and long-standing conflicts in which the United States involvement has played a huge role was the Vietnam War. Tim O’Brien, author of the novel The Things They Carried, makes a statement about the war: There were times in my life when I couldn’t feel much, not sadness or pity or passion, and somehow I blamed this place for what I had become, and I blamed it for taking away the person I had once been (O’Brien 176). In the novel, he portrays the soldiers’ personalities through their experiences by seeing the Monks cleaning the guns and the things they carried on them. How inThe Things They Carried Tim O’Brien believes that truth in literature has nothing to do with what actually happened.

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In the fiction novel The Things They Carried, O’Brien shows the war as a tragic overall. When it comes to war, most of us are just spectators and we never truly get to experience it. There is so much about war that we just don’t know and see. According to the author, the thing about remembering is that you don’t forget. You take your material where you find it, which is in your life, at the intersections of past and present (O’Brien 33). That shows how the soldiers can be affected by the war mentally and physically. Anything that happens in your past will forever be a part of your life. You can not forget it. You will carry those burdens for the rest of your life. As an ex-soldier of the Vietnam war, we notice Tim O’Brien’s interpreting short stories has a process to evacuate his feelings. The most important thing about the novel is the way Tim O’Brien use the extreme power storytelling. That means, through those stories, O’Brien express his feelings and those of other soldiers. War not only comes with guilt and trauma, but it also has stories. Those stories continue even there is no one. Stories make memories and can be a way to expose our burdens.

In Tim O’Brien own words I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth (Tim O’Brien 171), the meaning of happening-truth is way more different than the story-truth. They are both different ideas. Even though The things they carried is a fictional novel, it shows us the truth behind real war stories. Tim told the stories that mattered to the reader, relatable things that had a reason. He wrote stories of regret, love and indecision, and not much in-between information. O’Brien made the stories realistic not by telling the happenings, but the truth. By telling the story-truth, O’Brien can deliver the morals and the importance that a war story must carry. Marilyn Wesley has noted that All you can do is tell it one more time, patiently, adding and subtracting, making up a few things to get at the real truth (13). Even if it is a story, you can grab the readers’ attention by passing some true messages through that story. In the novel, there are many true ideas that even in a work of fiction, the audience reading the novel may gain perspective on. The narrator who is also the author talks about everything and everyone with such detail, yet at times it seems almost bland. Details of each soldier’s emotion and true thought at some of the possible life-altering events are almost strong enough to affect the readers’ emotions at times. In “Good Form” (Tim O’Brien 171-172), O’Brien is trying to tell the reader that you can not get the entire truth if you are told what is just happening. He is saying you need to feel the rush of emotions and every detail that is around you. That shows in The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien used “story-truth” to make the readers feel more connected to the reality of it all even though this is a work of fiction.

The dancing girl serves as one of the poignant symbols in the things they carried. None of the soldiers didn’t know why she was dancing, but they offered their theory about it. One of the theories in the things they carried about the dancing girl was probably some weird ritual(Tim O’Brien 130). Ruth A. H. Lahti noted that the story opens with a negative structure that expresses the expectations of character Tim(14). The dancing girl is symbolic of meaninglessness. Azar is put-off by the fact that the girl keeps dancing, even though her family is dead and her village is burned to the ground, He can’t find any meaning in it. This similarity shows us there is no moral to a war story, no right or wrong. Also, the author wants to communicate the fact that her dancing was something to be respected. According to author Brian Jarvis, The Ghost Dance movement was integral to Kiowa culture from 1894 to 1916 and involved a syncretic blend of tribal folklore, peyotism (a native American religion and sacramental ritual involving the hallucinogenic peyote button) and Christian resurrection (8). The author uses evil, religion to explain the fact of the dancing girl. This is why the dancing girl The dancing girl is symbolic of amorality and senselessness as for the soldiers’ life after the war ended.

To conclude, War is a violent conflict followed by destruction and death. In war, everyone is a victim. In Tim O’Brien novel the war is described as the things the soldiers carried. O’Brien also uses the story-truth and happening-truth to show the readers there is a difference between both of them. Through his novel, The Things They Carried he recounts the Vietnam War in detail and why it is so important to understand the general theme of war. The Things They Carried helped recognize particular aspects of the war as it associated with the soldiers and their lives individually and collectively. The novel posed many aspects of the burdens the soldiers packed during throughout the war as well as the emotional feelings that were associated along with it.

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The Novel The Things They Carried And War. (2019, Apr 11). Retrieved November 26, 2022 , from

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