ENC1102 Sec 81
25 September 2013
Burdens of War
Tim Obrien’s “The Things They Carried”
To understand literature, especially the more abstract and intricate stuff, you must comprehend beyond the literal text. To really see the point an author is hinting at you must be able to read the covert messages masked within the overt ones. Not only must you take the authors background into consideration but also the time period that the piece takes place in. You must take into account the culture and context of a story, only then can you truly understand the symbols, allusions, and metaphors intended to give insight. In Tim Obrien’s “The Things They Carried” he uses metafiction and extensive lists of symbolic items each man carries to exemplify the soldiers’ individuality and their personal burdens, physical and emotional, deriving from his own personal encounters during the war. Tim Obrien was barely out of college when he received his draft letter. He was already negatively disposed toward the war, but now he was sucked into it despite his views. This event drastically influenced his writings and possibly even awakened his literary desire. Consequently all of his works were Vietnam War oriented, and deeply reflected his experiences and opinions of the war. No story other than “The Things They Carried” better captures Obrien’s mixed feelings on accepting or rejecting the draft. He seriously debated crossing the Canadian border from Minnesota as a draft dodger. This internal conflict he faced is something each soldier had to confront in his short story. What ultimately keeps Obrien from fleeing is his inability to run away from his duty. “The Things They Carried” portrays this trait in all of the men during their daily struggles in Vietnam. “In different ways it happened to all of them. Afterward, when the firing ended, they would blink and peek up. They would touch their bodies, feeling shame, then quickly hiding it. They would...
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