Analysis of Important Quotes in "The Things They Carried"

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1. “In any war story, especially a true one, it’s difficult to separate what happened from what seemed to happen. What seems to happen becomes its own happening and has to be told the way. “ (71)

Significance: This quote describes the entire style in which the book is written. Tim O’ Brien writes the novel as though it is a memoir, but this isn’t the case. In the copyright information, readers learn that most of the events, with a few small exceptions, were fabricated. Once the reader knows this fact, there is bound to be a curiosity of which portions of the book are actually based on O’ Brien’s life. This quote looks at the “fictional” Tim O’Brien’s view of war stories. He says that memory doesn’t always serve a person well when telling war stories, as there are some things that didn’t actually happen, they merely seem to. The same affect occurs when the reader is unclear as to what actually happened to real Tim O’Brien, and what was simply fabricated for entertainment purposes. The novel becomes even more like a war story if the reader doesn’t become aware of the style in which the book is written until they are through reading. There’s always the constant question of which bits of the story were based on Tim O’ Brien’s factual life.

2. “What happened to her, Rat said, was what happened to all of them. They come over clean and you get dirty and then afterwards it’s never the same. A question of degree. Some make it intact, others don’t make it at all.” (114)

Significance: When looking at the entire platoon of men, it’s evident that this quote, which Rat was using to describe Mary Anne’s transformation over the course of her trip to Vietnam, is actually reflective the way all the men have been affected. All of the men came in as good old All-American boys. Through their months in the war, they were all changed to some degree. O’Brien shows characters such as his fictional self, who, though somewhat haunted by the war stories, has found ways to...
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