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Tim O'Brien's the Things They Carried
In his book, The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien is allowing the reader to see the negative effects war has on people, especially on soldiers. Through a variety of short stories focused primarily on the Vietnam war, O'Brien illustrates the horror of war through exquisite detail of the violent nature that each soldier seemed to have adopted as time went on in Vietnam. By focusing not only on the physical things the men carried, but also on the intangible things, the reader can easily relate to the emotional cost of an ambiguous war. O'Brien paints a compelling picture of the gruesome side of war and how it cripples the human psyche, as well as delivering a convincing antiwar statement as a result of such an experience.
The violence that seems to become embedded in the soldiers is a major topic in O'Brien's novel. Through elaborate details that reveal the drastic change within the men, O'Brien creates within the reader an sense of understanding of the what of war does to people. This is an effective technique, as he ties these effects into the title of the book. For example, O'Brien has this to say about one of the soldiers, "Norman Bowker, otherwise a very gentle person, carried a Thumb...The Thumb was dark brown, rubbery to touch... It had been cut from a VC corpse, a boy of fifteen or sixteen" (13). Before Vietnam, Bowker was a very good-natured person; however, war turned him into a hard-mannered, emotionally empty soldier, carrying a severed thumb as a trophy. The transformation shown through Bowker is an excellent example of the emotional change that a soldier might go through. Another example of this type of change was a soldier named "Ted Lavender adopted an orphaned puppy... Azar strapped it to a Claymore antipersonnel mine and squeezed the firing device" (36). Clearly, Azar's actions proved him to be very unstable.
In addition, O'Brien displays how the violence becomes normal after some time in Vietnam. For instance, his description of how Kiley killed the buffalo demonstrates a certain lack of emotion and regret when stating, "We came across a baby water buffalo... After supper Rat Kiley went over and stroked its nose... He stepped back and shot it through the right front knee... He shot it twice in the flanks. It wasn't to kill, it was to hurt" (79). Clearly Kiley is exhibiting irrational behavior, but no one acts as if that behavior is really wrong or unjustified. Another example of this kind of "learned" insensitivity is when Ted Lavender, the druggie, was shot in the head. The soldiers waited around criticizing Lavender for his consumption of tranquilizer while, they themselves, smoke his dope and make ruthless statements as, "There's a moral here... The moral's pretty obvious... Stay away from drugs. No joke, they ruin your day every time" (17). Again the notion that such behavior is being accepted among the men is illustrated as Lavender and Cross lead their troops into Than Khe. The reader can almost see the men move almost like robots through the village when O'Brien says of them, "They burned everything. They shot chickens and dogs, they trashed the village well, they called in the artillery and watched the wreckage, then they marched for several hours through the hot afternoon.... " (7).
O'Brien also conveys to the reader how some of the soldiers escape their world by using marijuana. Lavender always "carried six or seven ounces of premium dope" (5). For something that was considered immoral in American seemed normal in Vietnam. Once they carried a corpse out to "a dry paddy... And sat smoking the dead man's dope until the chopper came" (8). Even the squad's supervisor is unaffected by the soldiers' blatant use marijuana and seems to have become so used to the occurrence that he no longer condemns its use. The reader understands that for a leader of men to be morally warped in such a way makes an incredible statement about the war.
The type of hardness that the soldiers grew accustomed to was also demonstrated in the character of Mary Ann, who was introduced as an innocent blond with "white culottes and this sexy pink…[continue]
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Krajek points out that what she took from O'Brien's lecture was the fact that a fiction author can help the reader connect with the story in reality, even if the story is not true. "His lecture's overarching message illustrated his belief that fiction, while a product of a novelist's imagination and not true in the literal sense, gets closer to the meaning of emotional and spiritual truth" (Krajek, 2009). The
Later, however, Jimmy cannot forgive himself for Lavender's death, and his own day-dreamy negligence that he knows had caused it. By now Cross has ordered his men to burn the area where Lavender died, and they have moved elsewhere. But none of that erases the images in Jimmy Cross's mind of Ted Lavender's corpse. As O'Brien depicts the aftermath, during that same evening, of Ted Lavender's preventable death from Jimmy
I can make myself feel again (O'Brien, p. 180). And, through story truth, what the story is able to do for O'Brien, it becomes able also to do for the reader. In "The Lives of the Dead," O'Brien further elaborates on his need for stories universally. Through make-believe -- imagination, stories, fiction -- O'Brien finds that he can not only resurrect the dead but also lay a barrier between himself and
Tim O'Brien's the Things They Carried The most shocking aspects of the novel, The Things They Carried, are the graphic descriptions and the striking honesty with which Tim O'Brien employs to describe the devastating effects of war. Several stories are written with an honesty that reveals the horrors of war as well as the frailty of the human spirit. The most moving of these stories are "The Man I Killed" and
1). The character in the novel/author 'Tim' never believed in the cause of the Vietnam War, and nearly fled to Canada to avoid serving. That decision to servie affected him in an unalterable fashion, and O'Brien's recounts the story of Vietnam to himself, in both truthful and fanciful ways, to make sense of his experience. Yet every re-telling removes him farther and farther away from the realities of the experience,
While he pretended, she was "elusive on the matter of love" (1). While she might have signed her letters with love, Jimmy "knew better" (2) but the idea made him feel better so he allowed himself the luxury of living in the fantasy. Jimmy's guilt for Ted's death was "like a stone in his stomach for the rest of the war" (16). Jimmy must work through this emotion, which
Hence, we need to learn from the experience of our veterans. Perhaps the greatest lesson is already evident in our clear distinction that is made as a society that we can disagree with the ideology behind the war, but support the man or woman in uniform. Additionally, if the emotional toll and the economic costs of PTSD after Vietnam teaches us anything, it is that perhaps that the military's