The Things That Carried Them
“It was very sad, he thought. The things men carried inside. The things men did or felt they had to do. ” (The Things They Carried; O’Brien; 24) This single quote, for me, sums up the twenty-two chapter collection of short-stories written by Tim O’Brien. Like a child with a teddy bear when the lights go out, we all tend cling to small things in order to get through big problems. It can be funny, and can be sad, what people feel they need to carry along with them to make it through tough time, but it is never more poignant than when dealing with the horror of war. O’Brien uses a technique called verisimilitude to lend authenticity to his fictional Vietnam era Alpha Company. The book is written as a memoir, as if the author is looking back over his time in Vietnam. While the characters in the book are fictional, O’Brien assigns his own war stories and experiences to the men in Alpha Company, which makes the stories very believable. In the book, each chapter is dedicated to a different character, which O’Brien has created a story around. Each story weaves itself into the other character’s stories, creating one cohesive story. Henry Dobbins carries his girlfriend’s pantyhose as he pines for the comfort of home and family. Worried about losing his way, company commander Jimmy Cross carries compasses and maps for comfort. All of Alpha Company carries both fear and love. The survivors of the Vietnam War still carried grief and shame, guilt, and moral confusion. Kiowa was a Native American, fighting in a foreign country, for the country which long ago tried to take his country away from his ancestors. A bit of irony there and it just happens that Kiowa was the most honorable, ethical members of Alpha Company. He is killed because of a poor choice in camping sites –a sewage field. The camp takes mortar fire and Kiowa is sucked down into the sewage muck, and we see a major character and a major force for good in the stories, killed by...
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