Theme Of Death In Tim O Brien's The Things They Carried

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War can have a profound effect on soldiers who have witnessed the atrocities that occur on the battlefield. Death becomes a part of their everyday life, however; it is the reaction to this and the coping mechanisms that soldiers use that defines true self from that of the field. This essay will examine Tim O’Brien’s short stories “The Things They Carried” and “How to Tell a True War Story” in order to show how the soldiers dealt with death through their responses and attitudes. For the most part the reader is able to identify some common themes in responding to death between the two short stories. One of these themes is connection and a longing for understanding. In “The Things They Carried” it is stated “Almost everyone humped photographs”…show more content…
Some of these attitudes actually go against what people would typically expect of a response to death. In the case of O’Brien his initial response to the death was in the beauty it displayed. He was not focused on the emotional side but more on the outward appearance when he states “His face was suddenly brown and shining… and when he died it was almost beautiful, the way the sunlight came around him and lifted him up and sucked him high into a tree full of moss and vines and white blossoms” (70). The reader is also shown how some soldiers use humour in dealing with death and traumatic circumstances. Within this same situation Dave Jensen was ordered to peel the pieces of Curt Lemon off the tree. In his own warped humour Dave Jensen deals with this by putting a spin on Curt Lemon’s name and sings “Lemon Tree” as he completes this task. Rat Kiley finally responds on somewhat of an emotional level, although not on a moral level as a platoon enters a deserted village. They come across a baby water buffalo that they classify as Vietcong for which Rat takes his frustrations out on. Rat savagely shot and tortured this baby water buffalo while the others watched, it was as if he was so numbed by the war and death that it took him inflicting pain to something defenceless to allow him to feel again. O’Brien states of the platoon while this was happening “Nobody said much. The whole platoon stood there watching, feeling all kinds of things, but there wasn’t a great deal of pity for the baby water buffalo”
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