The Things They Carried Theme Questions
1. What was taken from Ted Lavender after he died and why did they use it? Who was blaming himself for his death? They took his dope and smoked it. This was to help relieve the stresses of the war. Jimmy Cross held on to the guilt of letting Ted die because he was distracted from the war.
2. Many of the characters were superstitious, for example Dobbins wore pantyhose around his neck even after she broke up with him. How does their superstition reflect the theme of helplessness? Their need for superstition showed that they weren’t in control but needed something to grasp on to and pretend they were. Dobbins’s pantyhose made him feel safe in an unsafe environment.
3. Most of the chapters in the book do not appear in any particular order? What is the purpose of this for the story? From the first two chapters we can tell that the book does not play out chronologically. This better serves the authors purpose of letting understand what it felt like in Vietnam. The book is not meant to be a history; the order of the chapters is to ease us into the story so we can better understand the emotion.
4. O’Brien admits that much of the book is not relating exactly what happened yet it is still “truer than true.” Explain in terms of meta-fiction. The events in the book might not be historically accurate but they relate what it felt like to be in the war. They are real to the soldiers who remember them. This relates to meta-fiction because it mixes non-fiction with unreal events.
5. What is being carried “carried” the entire time?
Guilt. Responsibility. Fear. O’Brien is writing this book many years later. He does it for many reasons – coping with his own guilt, understanding the stories of others, and relating his feelings to his family. While in Vietnam the Alpha Company carried all the obvious objects plus responsibility for each other’s lives and the constant stress that they might die. Carrying refers...
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