Vietnam War Literary Criticism

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Literary analysis America’s war heroes all have the same stories to tell but different tales. Prescribed with the same coloring page to fill in, and use their methods and colors to bring the image to life. This is the writing style and tactic used by Tim O’Brien in his novel, “The Things They Carried”. Steven Kaplan’s short story criticism, The Undying Certainty of the Narrator in Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, provides the audience with an understanding of O’Brien’s techniques used to share “true war” stories of the Vietnam War. Kaplan explains the multitude of stories shared in each of the individual characters, narration and concepts derived from their personal experiences while serving active combat duty during the Vietnam War,…show more content…
This technique is supported when he includes Rat Kileys narration in his story, while all at once, allowing the reader to understand that Kiley is known for embellishing. “The question is not of deceit. Just the opposite: he wanted to heat up the truth, to make it burn so hot that you would feel exactly what he felt” (Kaplan 5/8). By O’Brien allowing Kiley to express his view of the war, he further sustains the writing technique used to reinforce the belief that with numerous narrations, he provides the audience the opportunity to depict and imagine their own reality of the war. The war stories told through each individual soldier’s perspective, but more significantly, with their own emotions towards the war and the events which occurred during the war. O’Brien writes, “You can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil” (76). Regardless of the changes within the narrations, the fact remains, that these soldiers are in the middle of battle and the emotion that follows differ for each person. As Kaplan states in his writing, “the most important thing is to be able to recognize and accept that events have no fixed and final meaning and that the only meaning that events can have is one that emerges momentarily and then shifts and changes each time that the events come alive as they are remembered or portrayed”…show more content…
O’Brien and Kaplan make it painfully obvious, the only thing certain in regards to the Vietnam War, is uncertainty. The feeling of uncertainty is carried within these men. All soldiers wanted one thing, “Ultimately, trying to stay alive long enough to return home in one piece was the only thing that made any sense to them”. (Kaplan 1/8) In, The Things They Carried, O’Brien explains that all soldiers carried much more than equipment. The things these men carried were solid with weight and are able to be transported from one place to another by physically moving the object. However, the reader soon discovers it also refers to an emotional weight. As Kaplan states, “Obrien introduces the reader to some of the things, imaginary and concrete, emotional and physical, that the average soldier had to carry through the jungles of Vietnam” (2/8). In the Army there is a saying, “Go to war, or go to jail”. During the time of the Vietnam War, a majority of the men were drafted. These men made a choice either go to war or remain shameful and go to jail. “They carried their reputations. They carried the soldier’s greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing. Men killed and died because they were embarrassed not to. It was what had brought them to the war in the first place, nothing positive, no dreams of glory or honor, just to avoid the blush of dishonor” (Obrien
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