The Things they Carried by Tim O`Brien

The Things they Carried by Tim O`Brien
The Vietnam Was is one the most noticeable military conflicts, occurred in the second half of the 20th century. This theme is still among the most acute for the American society as the after effects of this conflicts till could be felt in the United States. It provided huge cultural effect on the history of the United States and Vietnam. That is why it is not surprising that this theme has become very popular in literature. Former soldiers in their memoirs revealed the truth, the difficulties they met and the atmosphere at the burning points. The Things they Carried by Tim O'Brien could be called an outstanding example of such memoirs. It is partially based on the personal experience of the author during the war and could be called vivid example, reflecting the atmosphere of conflict and what was the life of American soldier in Vietnam. The book is created as a setting of stories and each of them describes noticeable and important events in the life of the author. The protagonist of the setting Tim O`Brien starts the description from nearly a middle of his experience in Vietnam. The men of the Alfa Company and their story of the war as it was perceived by their mate.

Emotional and physical burden could be called one of the most important themes of this setting of short stories. The title of the setting, especially the word things, which were carried by the heroes of the setting, obtains as figurative as well as literal meaning. Every day they experienced so severe hardships and got to figure out so difficult psychological and emotional situations, which were collected with a number of feelings everyone of us experienced: fear, love, pain, terror, longing and grief. The physical hardships could only be compared with the emotional ones and both of them were typical for the Alfa Company men in Vietnam. It should be noted that the storyteller does not depicts his mates like some kind of the national heroes. They are just common people, with their individual weaknesses and strengths, habits and addictions. For example, Henry Dobbins, was the one who kept pantyhose of his girlfriend and with this, thing that seemed insignificant from the first look, he starved for comfort and love. Another mate of O`Brien carried the maps, compasses and other similar staff. These things seem to be essential for every expedition, especially military. But alongside with this essential for every soldier things Jimmy Cross carried severe emotional pressing called responsibility for his mates, the men in his charge. Despite such "insignificant" details every man every new day faced one of the hardest burdens a human could ever meet – a burden of fear, which is so oppressing. This burned could only be compared to the heavy weight of personal reputation each had to carry himself. It would be essential to note that some burdens the Alfa men shared with each other, among them fear and pain, but everyone of them got to experience personal emotional and physical hardships, "carry his cross" till the end.

Fear is probably one of the most significant within the common burdens and every man in Alfa Company got to experience it once. And everyone of them was well aware that to demonstrate fear and panic would mean to demonstrate your vulnerability and weaknesses to the both aggressive Alfa mates and enemies.
These psychological burdens would significantly impact their post-war life and those who chanced to survive would live with the guilt like Lieutenant Jimmy Cross lived. He could never forgive to himself Ted Lavender`s occasional death and this event impacted all his life. Years passed after the war and Jimmy told about his feelings to O’Brien visiting him at Massachusetts (The story of Jimmy Cross is reflected within the pages of "Love" story).

Norman Bowker was the one who also could not stand the after effects of his participation in the Vietnam War. He can do nothing with the grief and confusion that became his mate in post-war period. He wrote a long letter to the author, telling him about inability to find his place after the war and inability to feel right. He can`t live with these feeling and killed himself.

Every of these stories tell us about physical and emotional hardship the American soldiers experienced during the war, their inability to live normal life after the war and never ending burden of life, fear and pain. Tim O’Brien masterfully showed the emotional atmosphere of constant oppression here and after, the broken lives of Americans, the lesson we might learn.


1. O`Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. Broadway: 1998
2. Donnelly, Thomas M. A Soldier's Sweetheart. Moloney/Donnelly Productions: 1998
3. Swaim, Don. Audio Interview with Tim O'Brien. March 20, 1990. Ohio University Wired for Books. 20.09.2010:
4. Hall, Simon. Scholarly Battles over the Vietnam War. Historical Journal Vol. 52: September. 2009, pp.813–829.
5. Kissinger, Henry.Lessons on Vietnam, 1975. National Security Adviser.

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