Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" Discussion Research

Topics: Vietnam War, First-person narrative, Vietnam Pages: 5 (1977 words) Published: April 2, 2013
The Things They Carried – Discussion Research
1. “A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.” In his stories, Tim plays with the truth. He has been doing this since he was a young boy, wishing his girlfriend back to life. He realizes that if you try hard enough and are creative enough, you can bring the dead back to life in stories. It doesn't matter whether the stories are exactly true--you can change the name, or location, or even parts of what happens--the feeling of truth will still be there. This is perhaps the essence of what Tim calls "story-truth"--not facts, but real feelings and impressions. – www.Bookrags.com 2. “A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.” O'Brien's novel is its intentionally confusing blurring of fact and fiction. The novel is subtitled "a work of fiction," and its copyright page disclaims, "This is a work of fiction. Except for a few details regarding the author's own life, all the incidents, names, and characters are imaginary." – www.gradesaver.com 3. “They moved like mules. By daylight they took sniper fire, at night they were mortared, but it was not battle, it was just the endless march, village to village, without purpose, nothing won or lost. They marched for the sake of the march.” (Page 15)  Commentary: This quote, coming early in the book, explains how the Vietnam War was different from WWII. Instead of engaging in open battle with a distinct front, Vietnam was more about search and destroy. Locating the enemy was more difficult than killing him. The endless monotony of the march deprives the soldiers from feeling as though they’ve accomplished anything - no battles won or lost. This increases the sense of ambiguity in the war and in the book.  The novel makes strategic shifts back and forth between first and third person. The first chapter is entirely third person, laying the groundwork for the themes of the book with generalizations and insights. By the second chapter O’Brien shifts to first person, inserting a version of himself as a character, as he discusses the war with his former commanding officer. He continues to fluctuate back and forth between the two voices throughout the novel, producing an interesting effect. A new theme often begins with a few pages of musings and memories, written in third person, which is immediately followed by a first-person story that provides examples of the same theme. Thus, we have a fluid transition from general to specific. Within the first person narrative there are also major transitions in time. Most stories involve O’Brien as a young soldier, told in real time as if he’s back in Vietnam. He describes the sights, sounds, and his emotion as if he’s still in his early twenties. Later in the chapter, however, he will jump ahead twenty years and share his feelings and impressions of the same incident. The Man I Killed is the best example of this time warp. – www.thebestnotes.com

5. “Kiowa, a devout Baptist, Carried an illustrated New Testament that had been presented to him by his father, who taught Sunday school in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.” “Kiowa always took along his New Testament and a pair of moccasins for silence.” Kiowa is the emotional compass of Alpha Company, the one who gets everyone else to talk. Kiowa tries to comfort "O'Brien" after he kills the North Vietnamese soldier, and it is to Kiowa that Dobbins opens up about his respect for the clergy. The night before Kiowa is killed, the young soldier is in a tent speaking to him about his girlfriend left behind. Kiowa helps "O'Brien" by easing his transitions. He makes "O'Brien" more comfortable when he arrives at the war, talking to him about the others' jokes about corpses, and he tries to get "O'Brien" to talk about the Vietnamese soldier he killed. "O'Brien" tells the story of Linda to Kiowa. It is from Kiowa, therefore, that "O'Brien" learns the...
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