The Things They Carried
Prompt: How do the symbols, imagery, and anecdotes in The Things They Carried help to contribute to the meaning of the text? The Things They Carried, written by Tim O’Brien, recounts the horrible experiences of soldiers at war in Vietnam. Throughout the novel, the author not only tells war stories, but tales about his own life, often referencing and dwelling on those who have made an impact on his life. He stresses the importance of these people and stories, often referring to them as “war stories” although many of these are not true. They serve as an outlet for O’Brien, allowing him to let go of these horrible memories but also letting him keep the importance that they had on his life. These stories and messages are emphasized through the symbols displayed in the novel, the imagery used throughout, and the anecdotes that recount his memories. The symbols in The Things They Carried help to make the text more meaningful and further communicate the theme the novel displays. One of the symbols, the dead Vietnamese soldier, represents the horrors of war and what soldiers have to experience on the battlefield. Although it was never completely clarified whether O’Brien did or did not kill the man, the guilt he relays through the text shows that he does not want to be in war, but it is expected of him to kill others since he is involved. He does so to prevent scorn from society upon his return. The author copes with the death of the Vietnamese soldier as he does with others throughout the novel; he fantasizes about what kind of person the soldier was, what he did before the war, and what he will do after. He creates the soldier’s life in his mind, saying that “After his years at the university, the man I killed returned with his new wife to the village of My Khe, where he enlisted as a common rifleman with the 48th Vietcong Battalion” (O’Brien, 130). The man is a symbol of who the author hoped to be instead of who he was at war....
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