PTSD In Tim O Brien's The Things They Carried

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In November of 1955, the United States entered arguably one of the most horrific and violent wars in history. The Vietnam War is documented as having claimed about 58,000 American lives and more than 3 million Vietnamese lives. Soldiers and innocent civilians alike were brutally slain and tortured. The atrocities of such a war are near incomprehensible to those who didn’t experience it firsthand. For this reason, Tim O’Brien, Vietnam War veteran, tries to bring to light the true horrors of war in his fiction novel The Things They Carried. The novel focuses on coping with the death and horror of war. It also speaks volumes about the true nature of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the never-ending struggle of dealing with it. In the …show more content…

One event that seems to haunt him constantly is the death of his friend Kiowa. Years after the war, Norman continues to struggle with the images and atrocities of war. He even reaches out to O'Brien in a letter exclaiming, “the thing is,’ he wrote, ‘there’s no place to go. Not just in this lousy little town. In general. My life, I mean. It’s almost like I got killed over in Nam… Hard to describe. That night when Kiowa got wasted, I sort of sank down into the sewage with him… Feels like I’m still in deep sh*t’” (150). Norman is unable to find words to describe his struggles and therefore can’t move on from the war. This just shows that the horrors don’t stop, even after the war. Norman is desperately grasping for a way to understand everything but he is unable to. Because of this, Norman, unlike Roy, is unable to cope and eventually takes his own life to escape his own mind. Additionally, Tim O’Brien himself has been greatly afflicted by the psychological aspect of war. Even after all these years, O’Brien is still unable to get the images of Vietnam out of him head, specifically of the man he killed. In the novel, he repeats the description of the man numerous times, almost to the point of excess, saying,“he was a slim, dead, almost dainty young man of about twenty. He lay with one leg bent beneath him, his jaw in his throat, his face neither expressive nor inexpressive. One eye was shut. The other was a star-shaped hole” (124). This quote epitomizes the trauma caused by war. O’Brien is trying to cope, mostly through writing these war stories but has yet to put it behind him. He feels guilt, grief, and responsibility, even making up possible scenarios about the life of the man he killed and the type of person he was. This

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