The Things They Carry: An Overview

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In class we read The Things They Carried, a novel written by Tim O’Brien. Due to the high popularity of this book, many people have written articles criticizing it. In “How To Tell A True War Story,” Catherine Calloway offers her thoughts on the book. I will be comparing my own thoughts and her article on the “relative truth” of Tim O’Brien. The Things They Carried is a story told by a young soldier, Tim O’Brien, during the war in Vietnam. The events told in the book are not told in chronological order and include extra information which allows the reader deeper insight into the novel. The story is told from the perspective of Tim O’Brien, who does not want to be in the war, but does not want to let anyone down. The book contains smaller stories within itself that provide deep insight into the mind of the author. Throughout the book, the legitimacy of the stories Tim tells is questioned due to his own explanation of wether or not a war story is real. I believe that Tim O’Brien creates doubt in his own stories as a symbol of his guilt.

Tim O’Brien creates a sense of guilt which is represented in the way he writes about the man he killed. “Descriptions of the man that Tim killed reoccur through the novel. Calloway states, ‘he envisions the young man to have been a reluctant soldier who hated violence and ‘loved mathematics’, a university-educated man who ‘had been a soldier for only a single day’ and who, like the narrator, perhaps went to war only to avoid ‘disgracing himself, and therefore his family and village.’” I agree with what Calloway is saying here. Tim creates an entire background for a man he knows nothing about. The description he gives is also an exact representation of himself, so this proves he sees himself in the man. Because of this, he sympathizes for the man because when Tim thinks of how he killed him, he thinks of it as killing himself. He is obviously trying to deal with the emotions that come with killing someone. The author wrote, “I was...
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