Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried"

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Book Report/Review
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Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" describes vividly a snippet of the American soldiers during the Vietnam War. The story is presented through juxtaposition of how the protagonist First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross feels and what he experiences. Thus, the narrative is split into real time war scenes and imaginary romances between Cross and Martha, the subject of Cross's unrequited love…

Introduction

In the scene where Cross and his men searches villages and shooting chickens and dogs, the reader cannot but feel sympathy towards them even though they are acting like a group of mad men. O'Brien successfully arouses the reader's emotions by rendering the soldiers actual human beings with feelings and weaknesses. The personal objects they carry show that they are unique persons who have different desires and emotions. However, during the war they are all the same. The juxtaposition of Cross's experience in Vietnam and his memory and imagination about Martha brings a drastic contrast between the life of a soldier and that of a civilian. At the end, Cross decides that the two cannot co-exist as he destroys the letters and photos of Martha and chooses to be only a soldier but not a lover. This is emotionally powerful as the very few people are willing to sacrifice their love and their desire for a comfortable life.
The language of this story is descriptive but plain; the emotions behind the story are thus not obscured by any flowery or graphic languages. In other words, the reader can read through the story easily without being hindered by words, and therefore more likely to experience what the soldiers are carrying during the Vietnam War.
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