Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried: The Weight of War

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The Weight of War
“The Things They Carried,” by Tim Obrien

In the short story “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, the experience of the Vietnam War is described through the eyes of American soldiers. The things the soldiers carry are both literal and figurative. While they all carry heavy physical loads, they also carry heavy emotional loads, composed of grief, fear, love and longing. Each man’s physical burden underscores his emotional burden. The purpose of this story is to bring to light the real tragedy of war. Soldiers are forced to carry the emotional burdens of war, against their will. Tim O'Brien describes the Vietnam War as the most significant event in his life, and it is the subject, directly or indirectly, of most of his work. During the course of his college career, O'Brien came to oppose the war, not as a radical activist but as a campaign supporter and volunteer of Eugene McCarthy, a candidate in the 1968 presidential election who was openly against the Vietnam War. In 1968, the war in Vietnam reached its bloodiest point in terms of American casualties, and the government relied on conscription to recruit more soldiers. Unable to stand against the pressures of God and Country, O’Brien goes to Vietnam and carries a new sense of shame with him. Once there he finds a war where soldiers carry all manner of weaponry, none of which is as heavy emotional baggage. They carry fear, hate, guilt, love, dreams, and blame. “I was a coward. I went to war,” O’Brien said. (“Biography of Tim O’Brien” 1) He was drafted right out of college and served in the infantry of the America Division – from January 1969 to March 1970. (“Biography of Tim O’Brien” 1) O'Brien makes readers feel the experience of the American soldiers, who fought in the Vietnam War. He presents as much as is physically and emotionally possible to help the reader feel the experience. Though the details that O'Brien includes: weight of weapons, the weight of a radio, and the...
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