The Things They Carried
A look into Tim O'Brien's emotional anti-war message
The Vietnam War was a war of great ambiguity. Flowered up with the illusive ideas of heroism and triumph, millions of America's innocent youth were drafted to fight a war in Vietnam. The consequences for this war were grave and dire. Millions from both sides lost their lives for a seemingly unreasonable cause. In his novel "The Things They Carried", Tim O'Brien changes the glorified way in which media and textbooks portray war, telling gruesome stories illustrating the irreparable damage war inflicts on the lives of young soldiers. The "things" the characters carry both concrete and emotional. Woefully, the ladder catapults the men into a lifetime of struggling to cope with the crushing weight of guilt, grief, and haunting memories that cannot be unloaded.
Despite the uncertainty of the legitimacy of the war, there spread the traditional message that defending one's country is a man's greatest purpose and honor. Fighting for a cause one passionately believes in is certainly heroic and admirable. The tragedy of the Vietnam War was that the soldiers were not risking their lives out of patriotism. Merely in their teens and early twenties, the naïve soldiers entering the war did so fearing the embarrassment of not fighting. "It was what brought them to the war in the first place, nothing positive, no dreams of glory or honor, just to avoid the blush of dishonor." (O'Brien 21) According to O'Brien, among the heaviest "things they carry" are feelings of guilt and shame for their cowardice. Upon receiving his draft notice, O'Brien is conflicted. He considers crossing into Canada in an effort to avoid participating in a war he does not believe in. However, he abandons his political position and goes to Vietnam because he does not want his family, peers, and community to view him as a coward. Ironically, he notes, "I was a coward. I went to the war."(O'Brien 61) Out of fear, O'Brien