Time O’Brien: Depictions of Soldiers
Tim O’Brien’s novel, The Things They Carried, consists of a series of interconnecting narratives that tell the stories of the soldiers in the Vietnam War. Each story depicts the soldiers in a different way. It can be inferred that O’Brien did this purposefully to illustrate to the reader the different sides of every soldier. O’Brien describes the soldiers in two main, ironically opposing ways; an honorable brotherhood, and a violently chaotic group.
A major theme through out the book is the connecting brotherhood that each soldier has with each other. When the men first showed up in Vietnam, they knew almost nothing about each other. However, after going through a series of violent and traumatic experiences they forged a bond similar to that of a brotherhood. In the narrative “Friends” from the novel, we see how close of a bond the soldiers really have. In the story, the characters Dave Jensen and Lee Strunk become incredibly close even after being in a fight. Jensen had broken Strunk’s nose, but after feeling terrible he proceeded to break his own to show his remorse. Eventually, the two become inseparable and form a pact that of one them had a crippling injury, the other would kill him to put him out of his misery. A pact like this one show us just how close the two were, because it would have taken an enormous amount of trust to make such a pact.
O’Brien also depicts soldiers in a much more animalistic manner. In the narrative “Enemies”, which precedes “Friends”, the same two characters engage in a fistfight. The fight breaks out because Strunk is suspected of stealing a jack knife from Jensen, who over reacts and breaks Strunk’s nose. This scene is significant because Jensen says that the knife has no real value to him. The fight broke out simply as a result of stress and frustration from the war. Even something as small as a petty theft was enough to...
Cited: 1. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien, Houghton Mifflin, 1990.
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