The Things They Carried - Themes

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  • Topic: Novel, Macalester College, What Happened
  • Pages : 3 (1011 words )
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  • Published : March 23, 2005
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In Tim O'Brien's novel, The Things They Carried, numerous themes are illustrated by the author. Through the portrayal of a number of characters, Tim O'Brien suggests that to adapt to Vietnam is not always more difficult than to revert back to the lives they once knew. Correspondingly the theme of change is omnipresent throughout the novel, specifically in the depiction of numerous characters.

Tim O'Brien is drafted one month after graduating from Macalester College to fight a war he hated. Tim O'Brien believed he was above the war, and as a result pursued the alternative of escaping across the border to Canada. This understandable act is what Tim O'Brien considers an embarrassment to himself, and to others. When Tim O'Brien finds accommodation on the border to Canada, he meets Elroy Berdahl who eventually influences Tim O'Brien, to change. Elroy Berdahl acts as a mentor to Tim, a figure that remains detached in the sense that he must provide enough support and understanding without being attached to the results.

At the rear of the boat Elroy Berdahl pretended not to notice...I realized that Canada had become a pitiful fantasy. Silly and hopeless. It was no longer a possibility. Right then, with the shore so close, I understood That I would not do what I should do. I would not swim away from my hometown and my country and my life. I would not be brave. That old image of myself as a hero, as a man of conscience and courage, all that was just a threadbare pipe dream. (O'Brien 59,60) Tim O'Brien's epiphany so close to the Canadian shore, represents the change he went through in the 6 days he was with Elroy Berdahl. Tim O'Brien's whole life appeared before him and out of cowardice, he went to war.

Rat Kiley is the platoon medic who eventually loses his mind in the field. Rat Kiley's metamorphosis occurs when the platoon switches to a routine of night movement

for 2 weeks. Rat is unable to adjust to this night life, and begins to act...
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