Kurt Vonnegut's The Things They Carried

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Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five chronicles the life of Billy Pilgrim, a fictional character loosely based on Vonnegut’s own experiences in World War II. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien’s fictional novel that is set during the height of the Vietnam War. Both authors incorporate fact and fantasy scenes in their writings, albeit in different contexts. Vonnegut’s novel travels throughout time and brings the reader to both non-fictional and fantastical scenes. Conversely, O’Brien’s novel is written in chronological order, but also incorporates fact and fantasy into the timeline of the story. There are clear parallels between the use of fact and fantasy in the authors’ works, however, there are clear contrasting uses as well.…show more content…
Vonnegut’s novel is more of a science-fiction novel and references time traveling and aliens. The jumping around of events throughout the book makes it hard to concentrate on the timeline of the book. At one point Vonnegut writes how Billy Pilgrim is “simultaneously on foot in Germany in 1944 and riding his Cadillac in 1967.” (Vonnegut 58) This passage from the novel illustrates how the storyline of Slaughterhouse-Five becomes convoluted due to Vonnegut’s sporadic use of fantasy. In contrast, O’Brien’s novel is written chronologically, and the use of fantasy flows throughout the book. Each scene follows the characters throughout their time in Vietnam, as O’Brien recounts stories from his service there. While the fantastical events that occur in The Things They Carried are clearly more believable than in Slaughterhouse-Five, O’Brien points out that in fact, many parts of the novel are fictitious. O’Brien writes “It’s time to be blunt. I’m forty-three years old, true, and I’m a writer now, and a long time ago I walked through Quang Ngai Province as a foot soldier. Almost everything else is invented.” (O’Brien 179) In the previous quote, O’Brien makes it clear that The Things They Carried is a work of fiction, not of fact. While Vonnegut and O’Brien both use elements of fantasy in their works, they clearly differ on the application of
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