War In The Things They Carried By Tim O Brien

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The Vietnam War is like one of those things you read about, act shocked, and then forget about it and move on with your life. The novel, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, is a collection of war and post-war stories told by the narrator Tim O’Brien. The many stories give a glimpse into the lives of the soldiers during and after the war. Through the experiences, inner thoughts, and descriptions, O’Brien can capture the emotional weight of war on these young soldiers. O’Brien’s varying amounts of details and strong imagery suggest the emotional burdens of life one carries around, while also showcasing the power of shame. From the beginning, O’Brien’s specific and descriptive way of showing the physical things the soldiers carried contrasted …show more content…

O’Brien writes, “[t]hey carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried,” (7) conveying the feelings of guilt and remorse, which adds to the mental hardships of war and the effect it has on the soldiers. This can also be seen when Tim O’Brien is fixated on the fact that he just killed a man. It is as if time stops for him, he is overflowed with thoughts and shock, which triggers this sort of guilt and shame that he ultimately has to get over and move on because this is war. War has made soldiers unable to properly process anything because of the paranoid environment and quick rhythm of war. In another instance, O’Brien showcases the power of shame on life-changing decisions. When O’Brien writes, “[m]y conscience told me to run, but some irrational and powerful force was resisting, like a weight pushing me toward the war. What it came down to, stupidly, was a sense of shame. Hot, stupid shame. I did not want people to think badly of me,” (49) which conveys O’Brien’s critique of society during that time, showing the expectations of young men in the United States through strong imagery. The feelings of shame can be seen throughout the book, each dealing with it in different ways and by themselves to appear …show more content…

Nearing the end, the author’s choice of including excerpts of Norman Bowker’s 17-page letter builds on the emotional burdens carried by soldiers seen throughout the book. O’Brien writes, “I received a long, disjointed letter in which Bowker described the problem of finding a meaningful use for his life after the war,” (149) illustrating the traumatic and horrendous experiences soldiers went through and how it affects them now after the war. Norman Bowker is just one of the many soldiers who had trouble adjusting to “normal” life, while some adjusted quickly and softly like Tim O’Brien, the war changed how they viewed society and their ability to contribute to said society. The effects of war can also be seen when Tim O’Brien visits the field that “...had swallowed so much. My best friend. My pride. My belief in myself as a man of some small dignity and courage,” (176) the short and concise sentences, with very minimal details, shows that no one can truly fully recover from such traumatic experiences. Tying back to the power of shame and the mental burdens that follow the soldiers throughout their time served in the military and after the war. O’Brien also writes, “[e]xcept for a few marshy spots along the river, everything was bone dry. No ghosts—just a flat, grassy field. The place was at peace. There were yellow butterflies. There was a breeze and a wide blue sky. Along the river two old farmers stood in ankle-deep water,

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