Backpack of Life
Some feelings and events in life are easy to express and explain, a funny joke or a humorous anecdote, even the taste of a beloved food. There are however, certain subjects and emotions that are not as easily described and spoken about. These subjects are only fully experienced as they happen. In the novel The Things They Carried, the author Tim O’Brien makes an effective attempt to bring the feelings and emotions of the Vietnam War to the reader. The characters Mary Anne, Linda, and Kathleen serve as symbols of his efforts. Using these characters O’Brien conveys the life-changing effects the war held, his attempts to bring those people and events back to life, and just how misunderstood it is from the eyes of the generations to follow. Many of O’Brien’s stories contain more of a sense of emotional truth than what actually went on. In “Sweetheart Of The Song Tra Bong” O’Brien does just that, whether or not the story is true, the emotions projected are real. O’Brien is showing that the severe kind of dramatic change the reader sees in Mary Anne could have befallen anyone involved in the war. Mary Anne’s transformation begins innocently, “the war intrigued her. The land too, and the mystery”, naively stating “it can’t be that bad […] they’re human beings aren’t they? Like everybody else?” (92). O’Brien shows this playful innocent side of her first in order to eventually juxtapose the completely new character depicted at the end of the chapter. Rat Kiley even speaks out about them all “we were real young and innocent, full of romantic bullshit, but we learned pretty damn quick. And so did Mary Anne”(93). Using the character of Mary Anne, O’Brien is able to give the reader a sense of the helplessness others feel when trying to understand how and why someone would experience that change. He pushes the notion that those outside of the war, those who weren’t up to their eyeballs in it would “never understand any of this, not in a billion...
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