The Things They Carried



TheThings They Carried

Thenovel, “”, by O’Brien divulges theintrigues of war. It narrates the experiences of a group of soldierswho are sent to war in Vietnam. O’Brien expresses his mastery ofliterary language in the most comprehensible and engaging fashion. AsI read the story, I am entertained by the manner of conversation thesoldiers in O’Brien’s story had. The soldiers represent thespirit of endurance in a war situation. The story revolves around thegroup of troops that convey the struggles soldiers undergo in war. Atother times, I feel vulnerable walking in mind through this warjungle with the soldiers. One would feel the pain and anguish ofbeing far from home and powerless to exercise control over one’scircumstances. The writer, O’Brien, is generous with words in hisnarration and explores a variety of literary styles to compose such amasterpiece. In this paper, I endeavor to develop the literary formsin this novel and exploit the themes that are created in the story.

Thestory strongly appeals to the emotional side of the audience. As thewriter maneuvers his thoughts through the events, one is glued to thenarration, anticipating more exciting things to follow. The storyexpresses many themes such as love, conflict, war, fear, and courage.All these themes are explicitly portrayed in the story to develop thenarration of the war. Every soldier is depicted to cling to somethingas their hope. For example, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross has the love ofMartha to give him the strength to face their adversity, and Kiowahas his New Testament Bible given to him by his father. He findspeace in reading it. At some point, he even uses it as a pillow.

Thetitle, ‘The things they carried”, is formulated from thenarrator’s expression of how his soldiers usually carried theirluggage as they went on the mission. Their missions were alwayscommands, and Jimmy Cross in the story explains that many times theyset on a mission they had no idea for what purpose. At one point theyburnt Than Khe after the death of Lavender a fellow soldier.

Thepeculiarity of this story is reflected in how the soldiers carriedthings in their bags. They carried them everywhere they went, whetherin the rain or under the scorching heat of the sun. The narratordocuments that, “What they carried was partly a function of rank,partly of field specialty” (O’brien, 2009). The story recordsthat Jimmy Cross the leader of his group carried a strobe light andthe responsibility for the lives of his men.

Thisnarration also reveals the effect of morality in war. It expounds onthe component that ignites a desire for the pleasure in war. Thesoldiers sometimes address their experience as an ugly one thatentails retaliation and a fierce defense for their lives. They harborfear within them but pretend to be strong as not to show it. However,for instance, when the troop experiences the death of a fellowsoldier, Lavender, through a gun shot, Jimmy Cross breaks into a crybecause he blames himself for his death given he was not present toprotect him. Jimmy seemingly was distracted by the constantreminiscence of Martha. I observe that even Kiowa is psychologicallyaffected by Lavender’s death as depicted by his continuousnarration of the happening even after his body is transported by thechopper back home. Kiowa is traumatized by this death (O’brien,2009).

Thewriter illustrates the psychological influence of this war on thesoldiers. He mentions how the events of this war torture the minds ofthe soldiers. However, they have learned to cope with the happenings,and they can even afford to express humor in such moments.

Itis worth mentioning that Kiowa just like many others show confusionover what they think they should feel in such situations. After thedeath of their fellow, he expresses happiness, not that he delightsin the death of Lavender but because he remains alive after the gunexchange. These experiences could affect one greatly both mentally,physically and psychologically.

Itis also of significance to relate the concept of love as developed inthis novel. Jimmy Cross falls in love with a girl named Martha. Theyhad not experienced much while in America before he is sent to war inVietnam. In the battlefield, he only has her two pictures and latersome pebble to hold onto as her memory. In the thick of this love, heloses himself, sometimes even daydreaming, risking his work andacting as though it is no more of concern to him. He is distractedevery time because his fantasies of her are intense. However, afterTed’s death, he burns the photos and throws away the stone,realizing that all he has had are fantasies, and now he has to stepup as the leader of his group.

Thewriter undertakes to describe this kind of love as an obsession,preventing its victims from matching up to the reality. Victims willalways miss a lot of what takes place in the real world and spendtheir years wasted on nonentities.

Thenovelist expresses prowess in the manner he can reach a broadaudience. He captures the attention of students of history, tolinguists, to poets, and even psychologists. In the team of soldierswas Rat Kiley, a medic who is described to have carried malarialdrugs, morphine, plasma, surgical tapes and comic books. Herepresents the part of the jungle where the soldiers not onlyencountered adversity in men but also in disease.

Thestory reveals the resilient attitude that is in the hearts of thesoldiers. They strive to perform their duty as commanded despite themany challenges they meet. The concept of loyalty is seen among thesoldiers. Though they do not have a program as to which village theygo the next day, they will always obey the command of their leaders.In this jungle, they need courage and determination to survive.

Allthe characters involved seem to carry something. At some point, thewriter records that they carry ghosts because it is for no apparentreason that they have to cleave to these things that only haunt them.These things remind them of home and the sweet memories they had backthen when in the real sense, they are faced with death.

Thestory shows the caring nature of human beings. These soldiers believethey are on a quest that will eventually restore peace and offer thema way back home. Therefore, they pretend to be strong at heart andnot entertaining any form of weakness lest they are affected by whatis happening around them. However, the narrator states that they havefear within them to the extent that when the gun exchange subsidesand they are in safety, they express a relief of tension. Nobodywants to die and even for them, the constant witnessing of deathsaffect their mind.

Inillustrating the theme of conflict, we realize many situations thatcause conflict. For instance, conflict is waged in the mind ofLieutenant Jimmy Cross, trying to understand who should have firsthis care. Are the fantasies he has of Martha taking precedence or isit his responsibility to his team? However, after the death of Ted,he realizes to whom he owes his allegiance. Martha is just a memorythat is creating in him an obsession, yet in the reality he is inVietnam fighting a war that has already claimed one of his members.

Anotherinstance of conflict is the war that causes Jimmy and his group to becommitted to Vietnam. They have to leave the peace of home to a wartone zone. They have an obligation to win the war and in turn restoreorder, though their efforts are futile as eventually, they lose thewar.

Thewriter uses a poetic language to convey his message. For example, therepetitive application of the word “They carried”. The authorexpresses imagery by saying that “they carried lice and ringwormand leeches and paddy algae, and various rots and molds. They carriedthe land itself” (O’brien, 2009).

Thewriter presents violence as regarding the burden rather than battlethrough purposely non-dramatic structure by laying emphasis on theconstant pressure of war instead of the climatic action of combat.The story, “The things they carried”, portrays the utternecessity of moral assessment. The righteous certainty that assignsabsolute morality to us and completes guilt to them- the object ofthe war narrative (Wesley, 2002).

In“The things they carried”, O’Brien desperately endeavor to makehis audience trust that what they are reading is real because hewants them to step outside their ordinary experience and take part inthe events that he is depicting. Tim explains that it is impossibleto know what happened in Vietnam, until his narration gets us theclosest to the reality of Vietnam war (Wesley, 2002). He intends thatwe experience the twenty years after the war when he returned to theplace his friend Kiowa sank into a “field of shit” (O’brien,2009).

Decisively,the novel, “The things they carried “ by Tim O’Brien revealsthe lauded artistic prowess of O’Brien. Filled with literary stylesto capture his readers attention and a peculiar way of expressing thetruth to his audience. The story narrates an experience thatresonates with the modern-day man’s struggle. The fight to love andbe loved back, and to take responsibility for the obligation bestowedupon someone. There are a lot of lessons that a person can derivefrom the Vietnam soldiers’ experience in O’Brien’s voice.


O`brien,T. (2009). Thethings they carried.Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Wesley,M. (2002). Truth and Fiction in Tim O`Brien`s&quot If I Die in aCombat Zone&quot and&quot &quot. CollegeLiterature,29(2),1-18.