The book “The Things They Carried” is a novel that has a collection of short stories that are related to each other. It is a unique book that focuses on various traditions. O’Brien offers his readers a war memoir as well as the writer’s autobiography. The key function of the novel is the protagonist, O’Brien’s to remember the past and to work the details of memories in his service in Vietnam to make meaning. Through several stories, O’Brien brings out the characters of those that he worked with, drawing the meaning, concerning the war from the meditations of the relationships. His description of Lt. Jimmy Cross, as a person who is inexperienced and a less sufficiently equipped leader in the Alpha Company, speaks a lot about his perception on Cross. After the war, both of them spent time together with memories of their friends and others who were killed in the war. This paper aims at analyzing the experiences that the men had during the war and how the same experiences continue to affect their lives.
In the introduction, O’Brien describes the major characters by saying what they carry, including the things that they carry and the physical things like the canteens and the grenades. They also carry the emotions that they inhibit from fear. After completing this chapter, the narrator is recognized as Tim O’Brien, who is a writer as well as a veteran. O’Brien, the narrator, talks about personal stories, including a story that he wasn’t involved in and of how he wanted to go to Canada and avoid writing the draft. O’Brien, one day leaves work early to drive to Canada before he reported to the Army. He stops at a fishing lodge, where he wants to rest and come up with a plan. The lodge owner takes him in and helps him to confront evading writing the draft. He takes him to a lake that is near Canada.
O’Brien confesses the failure of the convictions he makes through his story: he participates in a war that he does not believe in and makes him a coward. Being a writer, O’Brien analyzes why stories are narrated and how they are told. For example, he narrates the death of Curt Lemon’s and goes on to explain the reason it holds an aspect of truth. He surmises that truth, told in a story, does not regard the factual accuracy. If the reader is affected by the story as well as the listener in a personal way that means that the emotion in the story is the truth. O’Brien tests his stories with the stories that others have told him in Vietnam such as the story of the soldier who had brought his girlfriend and became terrified as she was fascinated due to the war and never returned home. Some of the soldiers doubt his story, although they are drawn to it nonetheless, showing accurately it is not important to tell the truth.
O’Brien’s memory keeps recurring on a story about the death of a friend and another soldier, known as Kiowa. Kiowa is a soft-spoken person from America who formed a strong connection with O’Brien. Kiowa’s death becomes the base of the novel. In each of the short stories, O’Brien recalls some things that happened during the war and builds a thought against what happens in the war.
In the short story of ‘Speaking of Courage’, O’Brien gives a story that he talks about a comrade in Vietnam, called Norman Bowker. He describes Bowker’s difficulty in adjusting the civilian life after he gets back from Vietnam and he remembers his ease on how he slipped back to the daily routine of graduate school. In completion of the novel, in ‘Notes’, he says how Bowker states that O’Brien create a story of a veteran who has problems in adjusting the feelings of surviving the guilt. O’Brien realizes that he should not forget Vietnam’s memories since he keeps writing about them.
Finally, the narrator O’Brien recalls about a girl in his childhood days who succumbed to death due to cancer, which was the first body he had seen before he was in-country. He talks about his life as a small boy; he could see her in his dreams alive as he talked to her. This makes him to recognize the similarity of him seeing her in the dreams and the memories he wrote about Vietnam, realizing that these stories save his life.
In this story, ‘things’ are both literal as well as figurative. They carry heavy loads both emotional ones and physical. These emotions are associated with grief and love, and many other emotions like longing. Their physical burdens represent emotional burdens. Although all soldiers encounter fear, they do not show fear as it will disclose their vulnerability to the enemy as well as other soldiers.
From this story, it is noted that the soldiers suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. This is a condition of severe anxiety that usually occurs after someone is exposed to an event that results in trauma that is psychological. After the war the soldiers carry psychological burdens that they had even during the war, since they continue talking about them. For those who survive, they carry emotions of grief as well as confusion and guilt. They tell stories of the survivor’s attempts, so that they can accept their experience.