The Things They Carried: What Seems Like a True Account of Time in War? | FreebookSummary (2023)

The Things They Carried: What Seems Like a True Account of Time in War? | FreebookSummary (1)

The Things They Carried: What Seems Like a True Account of Time in War? | FreebookSummary (2)

This material is available only on Freebooksummary

Book: The Things They Carried

Topics: Ambiguity, Chapter, Motivation, Narrator, Suicide

Pages: 3 Words: 1368 Views: 411

See Entire Document Download Document

Text Preview

The Things They Carried What seems like a true account of his time in war, Tim O’Brien makes The Things They Carried a generalization of his own experiences in Vietnam. Through the actions of soldiers we can begin to explore the effect war has on the human condition and the toll it plays on their minds. O’Brien makes shame and physical and emotional burdens motivation. He also plays around with the idea of ambiguous truth and how to tell true war stories. That the difference between the “happening truth” and the “story truth” does not matter, that the immense power of storytelling is what is important.

This further impacts the human condition by making men contradict themselves, their morals, and makes them question what really is the truth. Truth and how the manipulation of truth is sometimes necessary and how truth can be molded or distorted through memory. Lastly, the demoralizing effects of war on the human condition that what one thinks is wrong can totally be reversed in war. Vietnam is the canvas for all the chaos; changing of morals, questioning truth, and for contradictions. Through the narrator, we see that the men all struggle with bravery and often pretend they don’t feel as much as they do to avoid shamefulness.

Although they are fearful of shame, they hold and carry things that may seem silly but in the eye of the beholder, they are comfort and motivation. Jimmy carried a pebble and letters from Martha, Kiowa carried a bible, Henry wrapped his girlfriend’s pantyhose around his neck. All of these sources of comfort are rather silly when you look at them, but they motivate the men and keep them going. As shameful as they may be. A certain kind of bravery or dignity is accompanied by this shame, “Awkwardly, the men would reassemble themselves, first in private, then in groups, becoming soldiers again. They would repair the leaks in their eyes [… light cigarettes, try to smile, clear their throats and spit and begin cleaning their weapons” (18). From this passage we see how the men hid their feelings from each other. Often when coming close to death the men defuse the tension by joking, saying things like “that’s sure as hell was close” or “I almost shit my pants” (18) and pretend like the those sniper attacks did not bother them. All the soldiers are trying to portray a stereotypical image of a “tough guy” because that’s what they have been culturally conditioned to think. When in fact bravery is the ability to stand up for what you believe in despite what others think.

For instance, it takes a lot more courage to allow yourself to cry in front of your peers then to hide your emotions. A coward hides his emotions because he’s afraid of what others might think, he is simply afraid of shame. O’Brien also struggles with the nature of truth and feels that events can become more real in a story than in reality, as if by turning the memory into a story makes it more concrete and committed to

See Entire Document Join FreeBookSummary to continue reading

See Entire Document Join FreeBookSummary to continue reading

Page: 1 of 3

one version. And in the process of telling the story all the men can come to an agreement of what happened and add to it-rationalizing it.

Sometimes things happen so fast that they don’t really happen until one goes over the event, set down the facts and details, and finalizing it. And if one is totally unable to remember an event then it is like that event never happened, in this way the mind can triumph over matter. How the facts and details are put into a story can to give the story weight and a sense of reality. Also the story allows them to control reality and they block out things they do not want to remember so they can make the situation more bearable. Is this a coping mechanism? Or just avoidance of the truth? It is not clear but either way, the truth is subjective.

It changes from person to person and the situations they are in. O’Brien even backs up his claim on truth in stories by saying, “A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a war story seems moral, do not believe it” (65). In war the truth gets distorted, it makes a real man bow down to his morals. In war nothing is absolute or concrete because at anytime you can be proven wrong. This demoralization is further seen when they spot a baby water buffalo and proceed to maim, torture and finally kill it.

It is not clear as to why they find satisfaction in doing this but it can be seen as revenge. Revenge for their friends that have died or anger of their lack of control. It is the land, it drives them to do things they cannot even fathom. In the aftermath, the men are waiting and Mitchell Sander says, “Well, that’s Nam, the Garden of Evil. Over here, man, every sin’s real fresh and original” (76). It’s in this instance that they realize they may never be the same again or ever be able to tell a true story ever again. Frankly, the truth is ugly in war, it is contradictory.

One can be happy and thankful for being alive in a dangerous place and be “your truest self, the human being you want to be and then become by the force of wanting it. In the midst of evil you want to be a good man” (77). There is no clarity, no light at the end of the tunnel, just being. Nothing being true or definite, “Right spills over into wrong. Order blends into chaos, love into hate, ugliness into beauty, law into anarchy, civility into savagery… and the only certainty is overwhelming ambiguity” (78). War stories are not always true and the truth of them is irrelevant because anything is possible in war.

There is no difference between the “happening truth” and the “story truth. ” Because who knows? Who knows you are right? Or wrong? A certain story or

See Entire Document Join FreeBookSummary to continue reading

Page: 2 of 3

bits and pieces of it may be fabricated because one may not even know the details. Things happen fast, in the blink of an eye a grenade can go off and blow a friend into a tree. Curt Lemon had this fate in the chapter How to Tell a True War Story. O’Brien reveals this ambiguous truth in this story when they are picking out Curt’s remains from the tree. He realizes that the truth gets distorted and that some parts of the story can get “fluffed up. Does this destroy the credibility of his story? No, because anything can happen in war and one cannot understand what it is like to pay that cost or to see really what goes on in war unless they are there. The last few chapters of the book, O’Brien goes into what the effects of war can really do to a man. His actions he cannot forgive himself for, for the men that cannot live past the war. How guilt can tear a man apart. One of the men, Norman Bowker, was unable to adjust to civilian life after the war. He did not have the courage to tell his father about the one day when he lost his good friend Kiowa.

He felt guilty over and responsible for Kiowa’s death. He almost got the Silver Star. Norman later commits suicide. This is a true testament on what war does to the human condition. It induces mental illness, insanity, post-traumatic stress, etc. Men are plagued by the effects for the rest of their lives. This is the price we pay for war; this is the price they paid for us. There is no good in war. As Jimmy Carter said, “War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. ” Works Cited O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Print.

See Entire Document Join FreeBookSummary to continue reading

Page: 3 of 3

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Stevie Stamm

Last Updated: 27/07/2023

Views: 5410

Rating: 5 / 5 (60 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Stevie Stamm

Birthday: 1996-06-22

Address: Apt. 419 4200 Sipes Estate, East Delmerview, WY 05617

Phone: +342332224300

Job: Future Advertising Analyst

Hobby: Leather crafting, Puzzles, Leather crafting, scrapbook, Urban exploration, Cabaret, Skateboarding

Introduction: My name is Stevie Stamm, I am a colorful, sparkling, splendid, vast, open, hilarious, tender person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.