The Things They Carried
What seems like a true account of his time in war, Tim O'Brien makes The Things They Carried a generalization of his own experiences in Vietnam. Through the actions of soldiers we can begin to explore the effect war has on the human condition and the toll it plays on their minds. O'Brien makes shame and physical and emotional burdens motivation. He also plays around with the idea of ambiguous truth and how to tell true war stories. That the difference between the "happening truth" and the "story truth" does not matter, that the immense power of storytelling is what is important. This further impacts the human condition by making men contradict themselves, their morals, and makes them question what really is the truth. Truth and how the manipulation of truth is sometimes necessary and how truth can be molded or distorted through memory. Lastly, the demoralizing effects of war on the human condition that what one thinks is wrong can totally be reversed in war. Vietnam is the canvas for all the chaos; changing of morals, questioning truth, and for contradictions.
Through the narrator, we see that the men all struggle with bravery and often pretend they don't feel as much as they do to avoid shamefulness. Although they are fearful of shame, they hold and carry things that may seem silly but in the eye of the beholder, they are comfort and motivation. Jimmy carried a pebble and letters from Martha, Kiowa carried a bible, Henry wrapped his girlfriend's pantyhose around his neck. All of these sources of comfort are rather silly when you look at them, but they motivate the men and keep them going. As shameful as they may be.
A certain kind of bravery or dignity is accompanied by this shame, "Awkwardly, the men would reassemble themselves, first in private, then in groups, becoming soldiers again. They would repair the leaks in their eyes [...] light cigarettes, try to smile, clear their throats and spit and begin cleaning their...
Cited: O 'Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Print.
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