Throughout the narrative, O’Brien recounts the demise of his fellow soldiers, amassing uncontrollable guilt to have survived, “This constant reference to his fellow soldier’s demise is the guilt and confusion he feels.” (Weatherspoon). The psychological impact the soldiers face in The Things They Carried is carefully crafted using apathy, fear and guilt to tell the despondent
This is described in the story when the narrator states, “And then afterward, when you go to tell about it, there is always that surreal seemingness, which makes the story seem untrue, but which in fact represents the hard and exact truth as it seemed” (3). It’s the idea of trying to find a truth, or some meaning behind this meaningless slaughter and killing that happened during the war. But with each telling it seems that the narrator might be stepping further from the truth and that this story should be questioned on its validity. As Rosemary King explains in her article, “On one hand, O 'Brien is asking how a listener can distinguish whether a story is a factual retelling of events; on the other he outlines "how to tell" a war story” (182). King is describing how O’Brien is saying it’s impossible to tell what is and isn’t factual in a war story, and how he is at the same time explaining how to tell a “true war story.”
Kiowa’s death was touched upon in several stories, but the insight given to the reader of First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross’s perspective in “In the Field,” is a primary example of this. Jimmy Cross has to write a letter to Kiowa’s father concerning Kiowa’s death and he has to consider the manner in which he will write the letter. He starts off by “just saying what a fine soldier Kiowa had been, what a fine human being, and how he was the kind of son that any father could be proud of forever.” (164) Then he decides: “In the letter to Kiowa’s father he would apologize point-blank.
He fought a war in Vietnam that he knew nothing about, all he knew was that, “Certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons” (38). He realized that he put his life on the line for a war that is surrounded in controversy and questions. Through reading The Things They Carried, it was easy to feel connected to the characters; to feel their sorrow, confusion, and pain. O’Briens ability to make his readers feel as though they are actually there in the war zones with him is a unique ability that not every author possess.
No one returns from war the same person who went. War opens an unbridgeable gap between soldiers and civilians. There’s no truth in war—just each soldier’s experience. “You can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil” (from “How to Tell a True War Story,” in O’Brien’s story collection “The Things They Carried”). Irony in modern American war literature takes many forms, and all risk the overfamiliarity that transforms style into cliché.
This chapter “The Ghost Soldiers”, showed us how Tim O’Brien and the other soldiers were dealing with the war both physically and psychologically. It also shows us how the Tim O'Brien behaved and felt when he was shot, wounded and had a bacteria infection on his butt and how the war changed the way he thought, and viewed the other soldiers around him. This chapter also contain a lot of psychological lens. From the way Tim O’Brien felt when he was shot and separated from his unit to a new unit to when he wanted revenge on Bobby Jorgenson for almost “killing” him.
O’Brien writes, “You can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil” (76). Regardless of the changes within the narrations, the fact remains, that these soldiers are in the middle of battle and the emotion that follows differ for each person. As Kaplan states in his writing, “the most important thing is to be able to recognize and accept that events have no fixed and final meaning and that the only meaning that events can have is one that emerges momentarily and then shifts and changes each time that the events come alive as they are remembered or portrayed”
Through centuries of great wars and battles, history has displayed brave men and women who have fought for their countries. These audacious people have helped propel countries for the greater good. However, the weight and responsibility, of the war, takes a heavy toll on soldiers that is often overlooked. Tim O’Brien, author of the novel The Things They Carried, records his stories, and the stories of his fellow soldiers during the war. However, three of these soldiers are affected in an outlandish way.
Although he has no way of knowing anything about the man’s life, O’Brien attempts to humanize the soldier by creating a story for him, and memorializing it in order to place meaning on the man’s life. It is interesting to note that parts of O’Brien’s description of the soldier’s life reflect his own feelings. For example, while speaking about the man’s recruitment to the army, O’Brien tells, “…secretly… [the war] frightened him. He was not a fighter.”
The soldiers in the Vietnams war were there for different reasons, some soldiers were forced against their will and some were there by choice. Because of that, each soldier has their own thoughts about the war, O’Brien has interpreted that “The twenty –six men were very quiet: some of them excited by the adventure, some of them afraid”. This clearly shows how the men
Guilt is an emotion that O’Brien wanted to bluntly throw at the reader because the guilt is something a lot of soldiers faced in and out of war. There are multiple examples of the guilt in this book of all the trauma and all the love,the guilt starts to find its way into the characters. Continuing this, O’Brien runs with the psychological theme of guilt, and he does this masterfully. "They carried shame for almost dodging the draft. The weights they carried couldn’t be left behind and for some of the soldiers in O’Brien’s unit, they carried these intangible weights for more than twenty years after returning home from war"(Clark).
Human beings often claim to be searching for the truth. The truth often entails finding the right answer, choice, or formula. The search for truth develops a tendency to settle for the easiest choice—a false truth; more often than not, a false truth goes unquestioned in order to remain benighted. Concerning the false truth in The Things They Carried, information—specifically memories, must be sorted into two categories: those stories that are true and those which are simply glorified recreational war stories. It would be a near impossible task due to the extent that the tales mix.
“How to Tell a True War Story” and “Ambush” are stories that both explore on topics: truth, the real definition of a true war story, and the role of truth. O 'Brien starts off “How to Tell a True War Story” with “This is true.” Starting this story with such a bold sentence not only makes it seem more true, but to some extent, it acts as a comfort statement to the narrator’s own doubts, as if there were unspeakable uncertainties and lies of the narrator. The title of this story also comes into play, with a meta-fictional name “How to Tell a True War Story”, as if it were a guide, a manual, having a true war story tell the readers how to tell a true war story. However ironically, towards the middle of the story, us as
Although he mentions that you can’t tell a true war story, he still points out the story of the troops who heard unreal sounds in the mountain, and he also points out that Mitchell Sanders states this story. The irony happens because if the story is untellable, Tim O’Brien still told it. The truth conveyed by this irony is that the story is probably exaggerated as it’s passed to O’Brien, and it is not what it actually happened. Contrast and Juxtaposition “The truths are contradictory”(80).