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The Things They Carried - Essay Example

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The Things They Carried

In addition to deliberating on the emotional and temporal experiences of these soldiers in the war zone, this short story also focuses on the reminiscences of the soldiers, related to their life beyond the war zone. The narrative technique ascribed to by the writer is both matter of fact and dissecting. Hence, while going through the story, they readers often do feel that they could actually visualize the events taking place in the lives of these soldiers, in their minds. As the short story is essentially a war narrative, many a time one comes across scenes elaborating on instances of unsung and senseless loss of human life, while reading the story. However, the short story is not primarily about blood and gore, as readers so typically expect of a war story. The story is also replete with scenes that are disturbingly hilarious, ironically funny, starkly meditative and sometimes surreal and haunting. The art of Tim O’Brien lies in his ability to come out with a memorable group of ordinary soldiers. Each of the characters depicted in the story is well wrought and convincing, tending to be serious and funny enough to grab the attention of the readers. For instance, the character of Kiowa, a Native American and a zealous Bible quoting Baptist, who does not hesitate from using his Bible as a pillow when the need be (O’Brien, 2010, p. 125). The sadistically romantic Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, who is always busy pondering on the possible virginity of her female friend Martha (O’Brien, 2010). In fact, while writing this short story, one can safely say that O’Brien created an assortment of American soldiers, to bring out the varied colors and shades of the conflict surrounding them. The very name of this short story, The Things they Carried is imbued with symbolism. At a superficial level the writer appears to take a stock of the things the soldiers carried with them during their march through the war terrain like “P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, watches, dog tags, mosquito repellant, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water (O’Brien, 2010, p. 117).” However, along with these essential necessities that these soldiers carried with them to make life bearable in those inhospitable climes, they also carried much emotional baggage in the form of memories, fears, apprehensions, guilt and hope. In the words of O’Brien, “To carry something was to “hump it”… In its intransitive form, “to hump” meant “to walk”, or “to march”, but it implied burdens far beyond the intransitive (2020, p. 118).” It is this intangible burden carried by the soldiers that constitutes the focus of the short story. Also, ironically, the soldiers may choose to get rid of the “intransitive” baggage they carried, but, it often got impossible for them to cast away the intangible burden they carried with them. As per Gelfant “Tim O’Brien used the tradition of the story cycle for The Things they Carried, a searing portrayal of the moral and psychological burdens carried by young men in the military during the Vietnam War (2000, p. 13).” ...Show more

Summary

The Things they Carried: a Summary Review Name of the Student English Literature (Classic and Modern) Name of the Concerned Professor November 5, 2011 Abstract The things they Carried is a short story pertaining to the Vietnam War, unraveling the emotional and physical ordeals that the soldiers had to go through in their day to day existence…
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