The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
RISING ACTION • In the summer of 1968, Tim O’Brien receives a draft notice. Despite a desire to follow his convictions and flee to Canada, he feels he would be embarrassed to refuse to fulfill his patriotic duty and so concedes to fight in Vietnam. CLIMAX • During their tour of duty, the men of the Alpha Company must cope with the loss of their own men and the guilt that comes from killing and watching others die. FALLING ACTION • After he returns from war, O’Brien grapples with his memories by telling stories about Vietnam. 2.
MAJOR CONFLICT • The men of the Alpha Company, especially Tim O’Brien, grapple with the effects—both immediate and long-term—of the Vietnam War.
Tim O’Brien, the author and a Vietnam Veteran, is the protagonist in this novel. Throughout the book he reflects on his experiences in an effort to bring about a sense of redemption. Antagonist
In this man versus himself conflict, O’Brien is also the antagonist. He struggles with his own feelings of guilt, hatred and cowardice. He inwardly loathes himself for having reported to the draft, and labors to understand why he lives through the war while so many around him died.
The protagonist of the novel. He is a Vietnam veteran who has become a writer since returning home from the war. The stories of his platoon are told through his eyes and involve the tragedy, camaraderie, and ugliness of war. Lt. Jimmy Cross
The Commanding officer of Alpha Company. He is obsessed with a girl back home in New Jersey, and his preoccupation with her distract his attention from the war and sometimes leads to casualties. This leaves him with an overwhelming sense of guilt.
A deeply religious American Indian soldier in Alpha Company who is respected and loved by the entire platoon. His death deeply affects O’Brien, as well as other soldiers. Norman Bowker
Another member of Alpha Company who survives the war, but is unable to make the transition form soldier back to civilian. His experiences have isolated him from the people back home, and eventually he commits suicide. Azar
A young brash soldier who enjoys playing pranks and the thrill of playing guns. His immaturity clouds his perspective, making the line between fantasy and reality very blurry. He has little respect for the army, the Vietnamese people, or even his fellow soldiers. Rat Kiley
The company’s first rate medic and a soldier who loves to embellish a good story. He loses his perspective during a series of night marches and shoots himself in the foot so he can time off. POINT OF VIEW • Most of the stories are told from the first person, but on several occasions, O’Brien uses the third person as either a distancing tactic or a chance to let one of his platoon-mates, such as Mitchell Sanders or Rat Kiley, tell his story.
Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. The Dead Young Vietnamese Soldier
Although O’Brien is unclear about whether or not he actually threw a grenade and killed a man outside My Khe, his memory of the man’s corpse is strong and recurring, symbolizing humanity’s guilt over war’s horrible acts. In “The Man I Killed,” O’Brien distances himself from the memory by speaking in the third person and constructing fantasies as to what the man must have been like before he was killed. O’Brien marvels at the wreckage of his body, thinking repeatedly of the star-shaped hole that is in the place of his eye and the peeled-back cheek. The description serves to distance O’Brien from the reality of his actions because nowhere in its comprehensive detail are O’Brien’s feelings about the situation mentioned. His guilt is evident, however, in his imagining of a life for the man he killed that includes several aspects that are similar to his own life. Kathleen
Kathleen represents a reader who has the capability...
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