Things They Carried By Tim O Brien: A Literary Analysis

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Readers, especially those reading historical fiction, always crave to find believable stories and realistic characters. Tim O’Brien gives them this in “The Things They Carried.” Like war, people and their stories are often complex. This novel is a collection stories that include these complex characters and their in depth stories, both of which are essential when telling stories of the Vietnam War. Using techniques common to postmodern writers, literary techniques, and a collection of emotional truths, O’Brien helps readers understand a wide perspective from the war, which ultimately makes the fictional stories he tells more believable. O’Brien presents a variety of stories to present the complexity of war. “On The Rainy River” is a pre-war…show more content…
In the short story, “The Man I Killed,” O’Brien focuses on this to show that everyone fighting in a war has a story. He spends the story describing the man he killed and searching for justification of his actions. He carries around guilt with him because of it, and his fellow soldiers try to help him justify and come to terms with his action by saying things like, “You want to trade places with him? Turn it all upside down= you want that? I mean, be honest,” (126) and “Tim, it’s a war. The guy wasn’t Heidi- he has a weapon, right?” (126) However, by giving insight on the man’s life, the reader learns that similarly to O’Brien, the man he killed originally had no intention of fighting. He wanted to be a scholar. The collections of short stories in “The Things They Carried” come together to show how complex war can be. It is not black and white, especially since soldiers are dealing with heavy issues and people are dying all around…show more content…
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. Just admit to the blunders. He would place the blame where it belonged. Tactically, he’d say, it was indefensible ground from the start. Low and flat. No natural cover. And so late in the night, when they took mortar fire from across the river, all they could do was snake down the slop and lie there and wait. The field just exploded. Rain and slip and shrapnel, it all mixed together, and the field seemed to boil. He would explain this to Kiowa’s father. Carefully, not covering up his own guilt… My own fault, he would say.” (169) Though it is never known exactly how Jimmy decided to write the letter, but one of the final ways he considered writing the letter was by making it impersonal, “ An officer
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