Guilt In The Things They Carried

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The death witnessed during war is often a recurring thought in soldiers returning from war. This idea is explored in The Things They Carried, a novel about the Vietnam war. This novel explains the overall experiences of war and the trauma soldiers faced in and outside of war. The author, Tim O’Brien, carries a lot of guilt from war and wrote this book as a way to reflect on his experiences. Throughout the book, he argues that when soldiers experience the emotional burdens caused by death at war, they need to place blame in order to cope with their emotions. In chapters “The Things They Carries” and “In the Field” the deaths of soldiers show why others feel guilty due to the loss of their brothers. O’Brien utilizes the death of Ted Lavender …show more content…

In an imaginary conversation with his father, Norman thinks, “‘The truth’ [he] would’ve said, ‘is I let the guy go.’ ‘Maybe he was already gone.’ ‘He wasn’t.’ ‘But maybe.’ ‘No, I could feel it. He wasn't. Some things you can feel’” (147). When Norman Bowker imagines his father saying, “Maybe he was already gone,” Norman is trying to convince himself that he was not to blame for the death of Kiowa. Kiowa was like a brother: Norman could not face the facts that he watched him sink into the shit field. However the trauma is not escapable for the soldiers of war. The sudden death Kiowa causes Norman Bowker so much emotional pain, he unfortunately ends his life. Norman feels overwhelmed with guilt due to what happened in war, “Norman Bowker, who three years later hanged himself… That night when Kiowa got wasted, I sort of sank down into the sewage with him… The letter covered seventeen pages, its tone jumping from self-pity to angry to irony to guilt” (149-150). O’Brien uses the idea of the tone jumping to show how Norman felt all different emotions and did not know where to place the blame. He did not know if he should blame himself for what had happened to Kiowa. The loss of a close friend is hard to process especially when you watch it happen. Bowker went through so much pain that it came to point where he just could not take it anymore. Norman felt that there was no other options than to take his own life for him to feel relieved and at peace. Norman Bowker felt extreme guilt due to the lost of his best

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