The Things They Brought– Tim O’Brien
The story “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’brien is the very first story in his book of stories connecting to the Vietnam War. As Barth Healey puts it, “Almost all the dramatic furnishings of “The Things They Carried”– characters, landscapes, occurrences– are embedded in the Vietnam War. Nevertheless the book is not about Vietnam, and not about war” (Healey). Indeed, “The Important Things They Brought” introduces us to the circumstances surrounding the Vietnam War, however more significantly, it presents us to the men who served with O’Brien and the burdens they carried.
The story paints an unique photo of war, one that is different from the typical war story, a story that is personal, specific and extreme. With mindful attention to information, O’Brien has the ability to assist us focus on the men who battled that war, which enables us to comprehend opposition to war from an extremely personal viewpoint. Through each character in the story, O’Brien expertly shows how war leaves an enduring impression on people, often changing them permanently.
This paper will explore the series of O’Brien’s technique, which makes him such an effective author. According to Joanne McCarthy, Tim O’Brien is “acknowledged as one of the greatest voices to emerge from the Vietnam War” (McCarthy). This can quickly be comprehended as we consider his vibrant design. An example of O’Brien’s style is the special attention to information offered to the important things the soldiers carried: the important things they brought were largely identified by requirement.
Amongst needs or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, swiss army knife, heat tabs, wristwatches, fog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tables, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, stitching kits, Military Payment Certificates, C provisions, and two or three canteens of water. (O’Brien 2). Here O’Brien displayed a literal element of all the important things that the soldiers brought in addition to them. In addition to the concrete, we are also introduced to the intangible, as we soon find that a few of the soldiers brought a sort of wistful resignation, others with pride or stiff soldierly discipline or excellent humor or macho zeal.
They hesitated of dying, but they were a lot more afraid to show it … [the soldiers] “brought the soldier’s greatest worry, which was the worry of blushing. Male eliminated, and passed away, due to the fact that they were embarrassed not to. (20) Robert Harris repeats this concept when he observes that the “the story is really about the other things the soldiers ‘bring’: “sorrow, terror, love, yearning … shameful memories” (Harris). O’Brien even more describes that “To bring something was to hump it,” O’Brien states, “In its intransitive form, to hump meant to walk or march, but it suggested burdens far beyond the intransitive” (3 ).
O’Brien is highlighting the noticeable and unnoticeable weight that accompanied the war. O’Brien plainly states the “things” each of the males brought. He showed the “things” in an actual and figurative aspect. For example Henry Dobbins brings his girlfriend’s panty tube which represent the love and comforts he desires. Secondly, how Jim Cross brings navigational devices which represents how he is bring the load as the leader. Along with the weight of the war, O’Brien also reveals how the normal cliches surrounding patriotic task seemed to be missing.
The soldiers have no solid “cause” that they can think in, much less fight for, and the only thing they can be specific of is the fact that helicopters will show up once again with more things for them to carry. For “all the ambiguities of Vietnam, all the secrets and unknowns, there was at least the single abiding certainty that they would never be at a loss for things to carry” (15 ). Here O’Brien is informing us that due to the fact that the war felt as though it did not have a clear goal or mission, it contributed to the lack of morale experienced by the soldiers.
Likewise adding to the soldiers’ weakening strength of spirit was the stress of fighting every day. Those obvious indifferences extend even to how the soldiers handle the death of their comrades. When a man passes away, he is not killed, but “greased they ‘d say, offed, lit up, zapped” (19 ). We can see here how the soldiers denied the truth of death in an attempt to decline it, and somehow, handle it. According to Robert Harris, O’Brien strives to get beyond literal descriptions of what these men went through and what they felt.
He makes sense of the unreality of the war– makes sense of why he has distorted that unreality even further in his fiction– by reversing to explore the operations of the imagination, by penetrating his memory of the fear and fearlessly confronting the way he has actually dealt with it as both soldier and fiction writer. In doing all this, he not just takes shape the Vietnam experience for us, he exposes the nature of all war stories. (Harris) I think that the author displays how the soldiers’ thoughts and sensations are more dangerous than the Vietnam soldiers. The soldiers also experience isolation and isolation.
These vivid accounts are necessary for us to understand the magnitude of the wars’ impacts. O’Brien is informing us that what the guys brought eventually changed them. The men became more violent and solidified the longer the war lasted, and this modification could be seen in the specific actions of the males he served with. In reality, it is relatively typical knowledge that most soldiers went to Vietnam “fairly well experienced and with high spirits, but the physical and mental hardships took their toll. In a war of consistent skirmishes, booby traps, and search and destroy missions, it was difficult to relax” (Davidson 1202).
In addition, the impacts of war can likewise indicate remaining after-effects almost inconceivable to someone who did not experience it. Put simply, this affect is not simply something O’Brien fictionalized. “For the war veteran, and for others who have suffered extreme injury, survival itself can trigger issues” (Wortman 416). In “The Important Things They Carried,” O’Brien is showing that war is injury, and survival can be challenging. For instance, O’Brien has this to say about among the soldiers, “Norman Bowker, otherwise a really mild individual, carried a thumb …
The Thumb was dark brown, rubbery to touch … It had actually been cut from a VC remains, a boy of fifteen or sixteen” (12 ). Before Vietnam, Bowker was a good-natured individual; nevertheless, the war was turning him into a hard-mannered male who carried a severed thumb from a dead body as a prize. Bowker’s improvement is an exceptional example of the psychological modification that a soldier might go through. Another example of this kind of character modification is a soldier named “Ted Lavender embraced an orphaned pup … Azar strapped it to a Claymore antipersonnel mine and squeezed the firing device” (35 ).
In addition, we witness this sort of callousness when Ted Lavender, the drug addict, was shot in the head. While waiting on the helicopter to show up, the soldiers lingered and criticized Lavender for utilizing tranquilizers, while they themselves, smoked his dope and made callous declarations as, “There’s a moral here … The moral’s pretty apparent … Keep away from drugs. No joke, they ruin your day each time” (19 ). Clearly, O’Brien is making his point that guys were impacted and changed by the war. O’Brien uses significant scenes to highlight the irreparable result of war on the human mind.
He likewise uses these vivid images to make an argument against war. His information offer the reader amazing insight into a soldiers view of the war; his descriptions are effective in presenting another side not often thought about when remembering the Vietnam conflict. To emphasize this, O’Brien states, “The pressures were massive. They all carried ghosts. They brought their own lives” (10 ). In conclusion, O’Brien really successfully shows how the war changed the soldiers, eventually forever. He also tells the reader a good deal about how the war impacted the soldiers who battled it.
He is able to personalize the war for us and he uses particular, graphic detail about the characters to make his points about the negative effects of the war. “The Important Things They Carried” brochures the range of things his fellow soldiers in the Alpha Business caused their missions. Numerous of these things are intangible, consisting of guilt and worry, while others specify physical items, including matches, morphine, M-16 rifles, and M&M’s sweet. O’Brien clearly points out in “The Important Things They Brought” that no matter how justifiable wars might be, there will always be victims who cope with the memories forever.