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The Duality of Man

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March 03, 2011

The Duality of Man “Men killed, and men died, because they were embarrassed not to” (410). This is one summation of “The Things They Carried” by author Tim O’Brien, 1986 Esquire magazine. O’Brien shares his personal experience in Vietnam to embody the struggles that were faced by his platoon during the war. He is always on the move in the text, even when they are digging in. The use of omniscient 3rd person narration allows O’Brien to accomplish this- to keep the story moving. The reader is taken right into the thick, suffocating air that the soldiers are standing in and is given all the necessary information to become part of the war; to become part of the platoon; to be one of the “grunts” (398). The jungle, rice patties, mosquitoes, fear, hate and guilt are all part of the war and ultimately become part of the reader. O’Brien employs a banausic cadence, vivid descriptions, and atmosphere to catalog the life of a soldier in war, both as an individual and as part of a unit.

Throughout the story, the author utilizes mechanical cadence to present the list of things, the march, and the necessities. “As PFC’s or SPEC 4’s, most of them were common grunts and carried the standard M-16 gas-operated assault rifles” (399). “Among the necessities or near- necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wrist watches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water”(397). The way the things are listed, flows like a company in basic training. Left, left, left, right, left. [In this case, the platoon “humping it” (398).] By delivering the list in this manner, it continually reminds one of the march of the unit and the weight borne by the man. The back and forth between the story...

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