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The Things They Carried Literary Analysis

Essay 1

Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried is a narrative that examines not only the emotional burden of combat, but also the physical weight. Before, during, and after the conflict, O’Brien and his platoon troops experience things. The soldiers of Alpha Platoon bear both necessary and non-necessary equipment for battle as well as intangible emotions.

The main themes addressed in this book are love, war, terror, and anxiety; shame and guilt; mortality and death fantasy and fiction; burdens and responsibilities, as well as morality and humanity (French 4-6). Overinvesting time on emotional or physical responsibilities can be both helpful and hazardous.

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Both emotional and materialistic problems (things they carried) are considered to be metaphor as well as reality. Every soldier in the tale is overwhelmed by both physical and emotional loads they carry. “They transported everything they could bear, and then some, including a silent reverence for the awful power of what they were carrying” (7). These weights represent the challenges these individuals face on the front lines, as well as the agony they feel inside.

Many of the loads they carried represented whatever the soldier was emotionally going through; for example, the pebble Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried always reminded him of Martha, who “It was a smooth pebble, an ounce at most. Smooth to the touch, it was the milky white color with flecks of orange and violet, oval-shaped like a miniature egg (O’Brien 7).” Henry Dobbins wore his girlfriend’s pantyhose as a blanket around his neck. “Dobbins clutched her tights” (O’Brien 9)

Ted Lavender was given tranquilizers by Ted Lavender, and they were a deceptive cure for fear that would not even save him from death. Kiowa carried his grand father’s hunting hatchet as a symbol of his heritage. He also carried the New Testament as a source of optimism and faith, but his religion wasn’t enough to keep him safe from mortar fire. Norman Bowker held on to the thumb of a Viet Cong kid; according to Dobbins, the thumb had no moral or worth. The statement means that in battle there is only death and devastation; therefore, there is no value in war.

The author employs allegory in his discussion of “The Man I Killed.” Tim O’Brien’s younger, armed opponent who he killed while on the road is a powerful metaphor found in The Things They Carried. To illustrate the mental aspect of this, the writer battles with whether or not he is accountable for the death of another person. From a religious perspective, matters of life and death are handed over to God alone. As a result, O’Brien feels compelled to retribution and the fate of murder.

The dead man is seen as a figure of meaninglessness. This is emphasized in the narrative, where it’s alleged that after death, an ally or adversary has become a symbol of a slain soldier. O’Brien compares various beliefs between himself and the deceased man even though they are all assumptions. It’s conceivable that O’Brien was an anti-war academic who opposed the Vietnam conflict. He only fought to make his community and family proud.

This is a reasonable description that the author emphasizes. The memory of the corpse, despite O’Brien’s uncertainty as to whether he threw a grenade that caused the boy’s death, haunts him constantly. The carried and retained memory represents guilt and humanity after terrible acts of war. O’Brien separated himself from these distressing images by using the third person in reference to the victim.

Descriptions such as these one work to symbolize how the writer was distancing himself from his actions by projecting himself into the life of the man he murdered, which encompasses some fundamental elements that are similar to his own life. The guilt is apparent in his fantasies about the man’s life that he lived before being killed, which include several key elements that compare to his own existence.

The imagery of the ancient and young Kathleen is utilized to draw the reader into the plot; the reader is able to empathize and react to O’Brien. “The thing about a tale is that you imagine it as you tell it, hoping others will join in your dream… memory, imagination, and language work together to create spirits in our heads…. There’s an appearance of life… ,” (O’Brien 230). In comparison to the reader, Kathleen is the receiver of told stories. Kathleen and O’Brien had an influence on one another.

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O’Brien gains a new way of looking at things, which is directly related to his time in Vietnam. This may be seen when he recounting and narrating the tale of the youngster he murdered to Kathleen, “the older.” In terms of literary devices, Kathleen serves as a link between O’Brien and the reader. It gives her an overall view on the tragedies that occurred during the war when Stephen takes Kathleen to Vietnam. The reader’s reaction may be the perception of a 10-year-old girl; the strange and filthy odor of the nation. Kathleen is young and ignorant to what war truly entails, unable to grasp fully the emotional significance of the Vietnam War and memories that O’Brien has.

“The Field Trip,” in which the old farmer is shown burying the hatchet between Americans and Vietnamese people, employs figurative language and idioms. The old farmer is putting an end to the feud between Americans and Vietnamese people. Tim O’Brien assures Kathleen, his daughter, that the man isn’t angry with him for any of this. Such demonstrations suggest that a feud has come to an end. For a long time, O’Brien and the old farmer look at each other while waiting for the farmer to start up a discussion on Vietnam War politics. Furthermore, the old farmer’s attempts to boost the land’s productivity symbolize both the need and desire to get rid of and heal from the damaging effects of the Vietnam War, despite the costs faced by his nation.

The tragic symbol of chaos, conflict, and meaningless war is reflected in the dancing girl in “Style.” Azar is disturbed by the fact that despite the death of her village buddies and relatives when everything was burnt to the ground, the girl continues to dance. The book shows that the young woman cannot discover any significance in such a devastating influence on human life as a result of the Vietnam War. This agrees with O’Brien’s concept that there is no moral absolutes when it comes to a war tale; that is, there are no right or wrong answers and no core message.

In the poem, the dancing girl is a representation of confused thinking and amorality that rules over emotional and physical culture. It’s debatable whether or not soldiers who had trouble reconsidering life’s true significance and purpose after the Vietnam War represent a mental viewpoint.

In this post, O’Brien employs a logical fallacy to show how the soldiers’ dread of death and their inability to defend themselves against dying may have motivated them to keep their lucky charms. Although, in reality, no amount of luck, love, religion, or medicines can protect someone from war’s devastation. Ted Lavender was the most prominent fatality for his company; he was a “well-known and terrified soldier” (O’Brien 16).

Ted took on the task of transporting hefty things and sedatives, which he believed might have weakened his un-weighed terror; however, they were the exposing factors. ” . . . and he went down under a heavy burden: more than 20 pounds of ammunition, along with the flak jacket and helmet and rations and water and toilet paper and tranquilizers….” (O’Brien 6). Jimmy Cross carried pictures of his lover Martha in his letters. The character has been used to represent an emotion during war.. He is frequently daydreaming about Martha, which resulted in the death of one of his buddies.

In this scenario, when Jimmy Cross escapes mentally from the conflict, he daydreams of Martha; his inability to face reality caused Lavender’s death. “His thoughts wandered; it was difficult for him to focus on the war,” according to O’Brien (6). He burned all of Ted Lavender’s letters and photographs after his death. Jimmy Cross was pushed to perform and fulfill his military responsibilities without flaw.

He takes on the role of an intelligence agent with zeal and enthusiasm, performing every task assigned to him to perfection. His mind is still clouded by his passion for Martha, but he ignores his feelings in his heart and entirely plays his part. He vows never to let such blunders happen again under his watch and reclaims his self-respect. “He told himself, ‘No more daydreaming’ ” (O’Brien 23). The Vietnam War’s aftermath reminds Jim Cross about Lavender’s untimely death, these memories support why Jim Cross never forgave himself for emotional shortcomings (Chen 77).

The primary themes of the novella were as follows: The characters had to bear the consequences of war, such as death, anxiety about the unknown, a burden for a fallen companion, and gruesome killings of people some of whom were innocent. Despite being young boys on the verge of adolescence, the characters concentrated on honing their combat abilities so that they could become men. In this regard, everyone has his or her own external challenges or flaws. The things that soldiers carried throughout the book represented internal conflict and fights, thus adding to the indifferences between love and war ideas. The following is an extract from Mark Twain’s The Red Badge of Courage, describing the narrator’s first taste of combat.

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Essay 2


The essay considers “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. This group of short stories is about a platoon of American soldiers who fight in the Vietnam War and tells their tales. The book is a powerful combination of fact and fiction that leaves the reader with an indelible image of fear, love, and appreciation for the parts. O’Brien adds weight and number to his descriptions to force the pressures of the soldiers on you as you read.

The story of O’Brien’s journey is well-paced, engaging, and captivating. As the plot proceeds, he transports the reader via scenes of combat, interspersing tales of love, death, and friendships. More specifically, O’Brien employs time delays to explain events that may have been missed because they were happening too quickly for us to comprehend. In this paper, I’ll show how “The Things They Carried” uses the act of “listening” to enhance the significance of its narrative.

The Things They Carried: Critical Analysis and Impressions

One of the strengths of O’Brien’s writing is his ability to bring out each character’s personality through just a few words. The author repeats similar events in love, war, and death stories that are vividly portrayed, drawing readers into an active part of a movie-like scenario. More significantly, throughout the narrative, the author makes frequent pauses in order to describe certain instances that might otherwise go unnoticed by the reader.

Throughout the book, O’Brien talks about war experiences, some of which are still in doubt. When Tim says that the tales are merely imagined, the reader is convinced to think they’re fictitious: “The thing with a tale is that you imagine it as you tell it…hoping others will join you in your dream…. Memory and imagination combine to create ghosts in the head…. There is an impression of life….” (O’Brien 230).

Subtly, it is the author’s complex blend of fact and fiction that takes the reader into an in-depth understanding of the underlying meaning of “The Things They Carried” short stories. The study discovered that while the novel more closely resembles a narrative than a story, with each throb being genuine beyond reality, there is still some truth to it.

O’Brien also engages the reader into an active listening-like session via his descriptions of vivid war scenarios, making the tale more interesting than simply telling it. As expressed in the passage, “If at the conclusion of a war narrative you feel elevated or if you believe some little bit of justice has been salvaged from the larger waste…then you have been deceived by one very old and terrible lie” (O’Brien 68).

O’Brien uses terrible events in his novels as a means of demonstrating how dangerous the situation was at the time of the war. The soldiers are brought out having a variety of goods and methods that they carried while on foreign soil on their way to battle. “It’s safe to say that in a genuine war tale, nothing is ever absolutely correct…. War is sometimes lovely, and other times it’s awful…,” O’Brien (82) says regarding the novel’s title. There appears to be sadness and joy in warfare.

While this subject may appear perplexing, it transports the reader into the interior experience of how the soldiers were experiencing a mix of events that made some of them happy while others dejected them. As a result, the bulk of this novel’s progress ends up engaging the reader in active listening activities, which allow for a deeper understanding of the underlying issues.

O’Brien, as it is observed, tells the tale of his current self, which appears to be more fiction than reality. His numerous queries regarding the definition of a “true story” and what truth implies in any story engage the reader into active sessions of listening to his words. At the same time, the author engages the reader in a repetition style depiction of his several champions dying over and over again.

In Deadwood, the shape of a corpse’s eye is described several times in previous episodes. As a movie-like presentation that requires the reader to pay close attention to his statements, O’Brien’s repetitive tendency to engage the reader into the active unfolding of his intentions to write the novel emerges as a film like presentation because it forces him to say things over and over again. By utilizing a variety of literary techniques, O’Brien is able to draw his readers into active discussions through his use of narrative devices.

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Furthermore, O’Brien appears to exaggerate in his heroic descriptions of the event. The author leaves the readers feeling concerned for the soldiers’ suffering and disquiet as he describes the war in a variety of dimensions, yet some doubt about its actual existence lingers as an imminent problem for his audience.

However, the narrator (75) adds that “…and in that stare, the entire war is on display. It says everything you can’t say in words…” According to Bartho Blacom (93), one of the characters in this novel who has turned down offers for representation, “The metaphor for what they’ve done was so accurate it might have been photographic evidence.” The soldiers’ reality seems harsh and unendurable when some are killed while others are subjected to various forms of brutality. Listen appears to be particularly important in most of the author’s statements since it gives the reader a vivid description of events covered in this book.

In the aforementioned sentence, O’Brien explains how each character was outfitted with a variety of tools as they prepared for battle. It’s the overbearing extravagance of the soldiers’ explanation of the conflict that entices readers to get more involved in the whole affair. “…every third or fourth person was armed with a Claymore antipersonnel mine – 3.5 pounds with its firing device… they carried shards of grenades – 14 ounces each… they all carried at least one M-18 colored smoke grenade – 24 ounces…” (O’Brien 7). This extract makes great use of repetition, which appears to enthrall the reader into a more accurate description of the setting of the troops in action. This leaves the reader to listen actively while the author attempts to draw attention to how well prepared the soldiers were for battle.


In this essay, I look at Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.” This group of American soldiers battles in the Vietnam War in this collection of short stories. In conclusion, listening in this book is quite important since it allows the reader to gain a greater insight into the utterances presented by O’Brien. Additionally, following the tales told by the author through active listening unveils the real nature of situations that appear to be a mix of fiction and reality. O’Brien, therefore, succeeds in stimulating activity among his audience by employing language and various rhetorical strategies to express his ideas distinctively.

Essay 3

In Tim O ‘Brien’s short fiction “The Things They Carried,” the reader wonders at first what the story is about and why it is called “The Things They Carried.” The narrator, Tim O ‘Brien, recounts and describes all of the items that the soldiers had to carry while “in-country” during the Vietnam War in the 1960s. The plot as well as characters, conflict, and style make up its artistic value.

The protagonist, Tim O’Brien, begins the tale by describing events that occurred while he was in Vietnam. Each character is introduced to us via the things they carry at the start of “The Things They Carried.” A variety of items are listed, including tangible and intangible factors such as disease, guilt, and mood.

Metal items such as can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wrist-watches, dog tags, and so on were also carried by some soldiers as mentioned in (O ‘Brien). Throughout the story O ‘Brien appears to concentrate on the non-essential items rather than the essentials.

The text has artistic value since it is providing us with sequences of events, the reasons for things that are happening in the story. The artistic significance of the plot draws the reader into the character’s life and aids in better comprehending the decisions made by characters.

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