The Things They Carried Book Analysis

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The Things They Carried
McKayla Vaughn

Passage: “Whenever he looked at the photographs, he thought of new things he should’ve done.” P.2 Small Meaning: In this quote, Lieutenant Cross is deeply in love with Martha. He carries a picture of her in his pocket. The one date him and Martha went on, he thinks he blew it. So every time he glances at Martha’s picture, he thinks of something more he should have done. Big Meaning: Everybody regrets. This book is not just a war book, but a book about men’s feelings while they were away at war. The quote makes the reader realize every man that was drafted, left something extremely dear and personal back home. Everyday these men would realize that. It’s about having the courage to let go and move forward.

Passage: “They moved like mules. By daylight they took sniper fire, at night they were mortared but it was not a battle, it was just the endless march, village to village, without purpose, nothing won or lost. They marched for the sake of the march.” P.14 Small Meaning: This quote talks about how long and far the soldiers would move. They became numb to marching and walking because it was so common to them. Big Meaning: This passage explains to the reader how the Vietnam War was a different kind of war. This passage shows that this war was more focused on “search and destroy” method. It wasn’t just a “set up camp and wait” type of war. This passage tells that these men walked long and hard. It wasn’t just about killing, it was about going the distance to get the job done and done right.

Passage: “They did not submit to the obvious alternative, which was to close the eyes and fall.” P.21 Small Meaning: Here, O’Brien talks about the human aspects of what the men carried as weight and/or burdens on their shoulders. He talks about how the men never gave up. They always fought. Big Meaning: The reader understands here that men in war know their options. They understand all the alternatives they have instead of having to fight. The passage can be interpreted as all men have bravery in their souls. They were strong enough to be bigger than the ugly, terrible war, and they fought for their lives, their loved ones, and their country.

Passage: “The war wasn’t all terror and violence. Sometimes things could almost get sweet…You could put a fancy spin on it, you could make it dance.” P.30&31 Small Meaning: Here, O’Brien introduces the chapter Spin. He’s trying to lighten the mood by getting the reader’s mind off of the bad aspects of war and talk about the good. Big Meaning: The war isn’t transformed into sweetness and light, it’s spun. All of the happy memories that the men have, are rooted into the fact that men are at war. If the men did not let themselves have the happy moments, they would be more miserable than they already are. The story that follows this quote isn’t exactly “sweet.” Azar did give the boy a chocolate bar, but he also is nice to the soldier who shot the boy, ran out of ammo, and couldn’t finish the job. Again, it’s fact that these moments are rooted in the inevitable fact that the men are at war.

Passage: “If you weren’t humping, you were waiting. I remember the monotony. Digging foxholes. Slapping mosquitoes. The sun and the heat and the endless paddies. Even in the deep bush, where you could die any number of ways, the war was nakedly and aggressively boring. […] But it was a strange boredom. It was boredom with a twist, the kind of boredom that caused stomach disorders. Well, you’d think, this isn’t so bad. And right when you’d hear gunfire behind you and your nuts would fly up into your throat and you’d be squealing pig squeals. That kind of boredom.” P.32&33 Small Meaning: Here O’Brien is talking about how long and tiring each day could be. He explains it almost as if he was living each day over and over again. Sometimes the only thing the men could do was wait. But waiting wasn’t a good thing, because anything could happen unexpectedly. Big...
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