The Things They Carried By Tim O Brien

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Tim O'brien's novel The Things They Carried follows Tim through his experiences as a soldier in the Vietnam War. Before going to war, Tim debates escaping his draft by running away to Canada. Before telling this story, he prefaces, “This is one story I've never told before. For more than twenty years I've had to live with it, feeling the shame, trying to push it away, and so by this act of remembrance, by putting the facts down on paper, I'm hoping to relieve at least some of the pressure on my dreams” (37). O’brien expresses that for much of his life he has bottled up the emotions that come along with telling this story. He hopes sharing it will release his emotions and relieve the burden associated with carrying those feelings. Much of the …show more content…

In this situation the soldiers also told stories of the dead and treated the dead body as if it were alive. They high fived and fistbumped the man out of mockery. They toasted to the family they imagined he had. Tim felt disgusted and would not participate. He remarked, “It was more than mockery. There was a formality to it, like a funeral without the sadness”(215). As opposed to other stories that played a role of “reviving” the dead and bringing life, respect, and closure to them. This storytelling of the dead does not accomplish that task. The key difference in the accomplishments of each of these different scenarios is the guilt, emotion, and care attached to them. In the situations of Lavender and the man Tim killed, the ones making up the stories had emotion and sadness tied to it. Here, “it was like a funeral without the sadness”, and there was no feeling associated. The lack of feeling turned it from something meaningful, as it was for Lavender, to the mockery talking to the dead is here. Tim explains why people found this disrespectful storytelling appealing, “In Vietnam, too, we had ways of making the dead seem not quite so dead. Shaking hands, that was on way. By slighting death, by acting, we pretended it was not the terrible thing it was. By our language….we transformed the bodies into piles of waste”(226). In this situation, shaking hands belittled the …show more content…

He tells stories interacting with people who die to bring closure to their deaths. If done respectfully it is a powerful coping mechanism to cope with not just loss of people in war, but any loss. He also indicates that without expressing thoughts through stories thoughts build up pressure and circle in the mind causing distress or harm. Coping with death is difficult not only because of the loss of loved ones, but also because of the reminder that lives are temporary. Reflecting after the war, O'brien expresses that “stories are for joining the past to the future….stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story”(36). O'brien feels that as opposed to people whose lives are temporary, stories live on. It is appropriate to store memories of people in stories because the stories are the vehicle to bring memories the of people past their death, into the future. Ultimately, stories are powerful because they can hold love and memories of people

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