War In Tim O Brien's The Things They Carried

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In Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien expresses himself through fictionalized war stories as catharsis to comfort himself in the only way that he knows how. He tries to show the reader all of the pains of war that not only he felt, but his other young companions that fought alongside him in the brutal war. In the novel, O’Brien is a successful young man who is drafted into the Vietnam War to fight grudgingly for something he claims to be against. He recounts many of his experiences in stories based on true events but that are elaborated and fictionalized for the benefit of the reader’s understanding. This portrayal of the war in his words is a form of therapy for him that keeps him sane; even though the stories he tells are…show more content…
By recounting his memories of them and their demise, in a way he keeps them alive, or at least their memory. Many deaths occurred in the novel, but some are more obviously significant to him. One of these is the death of Curt Lemon, which he retells three times. Each time is different, by being either blunt or vividly descriptive. His friend was blown up when he stepped on a mine, but there are varying details. His main purpose of doing this is to portray to the reader that “absolute occurrence is irrelevant” (80). He isn’t trying to show the reader exactly what happened that day, he is trying to express how it felt to witness it; how difficult it is to describe because he cannot seem to get it exactly right. He even clearly states that the entire event is “all made up” (81). He confuses the reader in this way, and one might begin to question his validity or even his sanity. The purpose of this inconsistency and confusion is to portray that these recounting are in no way reality, and that most of what is said is not true. They are simply a way to portray how horrible the situation was, because just saying bluntly what happened does not achieve this. Another death that affected Tim was that of Linda, his childhood love, who died of cancer at the age of nine. Linda is another reason that he finds release in writing, because his death was such a shock to him at his young age. When he talks about her, he can still “see her face” (219). By bringing her back to life through the telling of his memories of her. When he was younger, he dreamed that she came back to life and talked to him. He would sleep all the time just so he could see her. He could not help this because he was too little to understand that he needed to move on, and he did not have storytelling to help him do so. This parallels with “making the dead seem not quite so dead” when he was
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