The Things They Carried

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s): 21
  • Published: April 27, 2008
Read full document
Text Preview
Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried is a very uniquely written book. This book is comprised of countless stories that, though are out of order, intertwine and capture the reader’s attention through the end of the novel. This book, which is more a collection of short stories rather than one story that has a beginning and an end, uses a format that will keep the reader coming back for more.

Typically, a novel contains four basic parts: a beginning, middle, climax, and the end. The beginning sets the tone for the book and introduces the reader to the characters and the setting. The majority of the novel comes from middle where the plot takes place. The plot is what usually captures the reader’s attention and allows the reader to become mentally involved. Next, is the climax of the story. This is the point in the book where everything comes together and the reader’s attention is at the fullest. Finally, there is the end. In the end of a book, the reader is typically left asking no questions, and satisfied with the outcome of the previous events. However, in the novel The Things They Carried the setup of the book is quite different. This book is written in a genre of literature called “metafiction.” “Metafiction” is a term given to fictional story in which the author makes the reader question what is fiction and what is reality. This is very important in the setup of the Tim’s writing because it forces the reader to draw his or her own conclusion about the story. However, this is not one story at all; instead, O’Brien writes the book as if each chapter were its own short story. Although all the chapters have relation to one another, when reading the book, the reader is compelled to keep reading. It is almost as if the reader is listening to a “soldier storyteller” over a long period of time. Another unique aspect to this book is the constant change in point of view. This change in point of view emphasizes the disorder associated with war. At some points during the book, it is a first person point of view, and at other times it changes to an outside third person point of view. In the first chapter of the book, “The Things They Carried,” O’Brien writes, “The things they carried were largely determined by necessity (2).” This sentence is written in third person objective point of view, as if the narrator is not even involved within the story. However, in the story “Ambush,” Time writes, “When she was nine, my daughter Kathleen asked if I had ever killed anyone (131),” and “On the Rainy River,” Tim writes “I was too good for this war (41).” Both of these chapters are written in a first person point of view. The change in the narrating point of view is important because it allows stories to run together, and if the reader pays close enough attention, he or she will read the same story twice from different standpoints. This constant change actually keeps the reader guessing who is going to do what next. O’Brien also uses very unique writing techniques as well. In the chapter “The Man I Killed” O’Brien writes, “His jaw was in his throat, his upper lip and teeth were gone, his one eye was shut, his other eye was a star shaped hole, his eyebrows were thin and arched like a woman’s… (124).” A little farther into the chapter Tim writes, “The star-shaped hole was red and yellow. The yellow part seemed to be getting wider, spreading out at the center of the star. The upper lip and gum and teeth were gone. The man’s head was cocked at a wrong angle, as if loose at the neck, and the neck was wet with blood (126)." This writing technique is called repetitive imagery. O’Brien uses repetitive imagery to get across exactly what the narrator is feeling. Even further into the story, the narrator states, “The one eye did a funny twinkling trick, red to yellow. His Head was wrenched sideways, as if loose at the neck… (129).” This technique is also used in some of the other stories as well. The narrator...
tracking img