Things They Carried By O`Brien The Things They Carried is written from the perspective of the author, Tim O’Brien. The book is a compilation of his stories and experiences relating to the Vietnam War. It encompasses the events and lives of himself, the other members of his company, and the war as a whole. Tim O’Brien, of no important rank, is a solider in the Alpha Company that heads out most operations of Nam. They are the first troop to stake out land, the first to raid the villages, the trailblazers through the minefields. They are the best of the best.
As the story is told, First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross heads his troops across the marshes and paddies of Vietnam. It is in him the men must trust. As war for me goes, I had no foundation for what to expect. Being that I have never seen any war movies or read anything like this before, this, in essence, was my first realistic exposure to war. In my choosing this book, what I did expect was to have a book that I could relate to, as well as one that was written about someone’s personal experience. And that is exactly what I got. Many stories, written as second-hand experience of O’Brien, take place before many soldiers are placed in or called to Alpha. They also reflect on how O’Brien interprets them.
No war story is told without a twist or turn of the truth. Details are imagined, and dreamed up to how the teller finds most appropriate. “Vietnam was full of strange stories, some improbable, some well beyond that, but the stories that will last forever are those that swirl back and forth across the border between trivia and bedlam, the mad and the mundane.” (O’Brien, pg. 89) This bias is the basis to a war story. Stories come from speculation, some from absolute fact, others from pure lies.
From their origin on, truth relies on the eye of the beholder. “In many cases a true war story cannot be believed. If you believe it, be skeptical. It’s a question of credibility. Often the crazy stuff is true, and the normal stuff isn’t, because the normal stuff is necessary to make you believe the truly incredible craziness.” (O’Brien, pg.
71) For troops, there is no other purpose than to hump their stuff, follow orders and carry their hearts, which they shove, to the bottom of the bag. Many of the troops are burdened with emotion, others with true weight or harsh responsibility. What they hold, they hold dear. If the object had no value, or they just got tired, they’d leave things for waste by the side of their trail. “They would often discard things along the route of march. Purely for comfort, they would throw away rations, blow their Claymores and grenades, no matter, because by nightfall the resupply choppers would arrive with more of the same..
and for all the ambiguities of Vietnam, all the mysteries and unknowns, there was at least a single abiding certainty that they would never be at a loss for things to carry.” (O’Brien, pg. 15,16) O’Brien has such a power for words relating to the true emotion of the war. Feelings have such contrast, going from no regard, to the only care in the world. Though this story calls itself fiction, you’ll have a hard time believing it. The realism, the captivity of emotions, tore at my heart, then turned around and angered me where I considered not reading any more.
For example, here’s a small story: “Later, higher in the mountains, we came across a baby VC water buffalo. What it was doing there, I don’t know-but we chased it down and got a rope around it, and led it along to a deserted village where we set up for the night. After supper, Rat Kiley went over and stroked its nose. He opened up a can of C rations, pork and beans, but the baby buffalo wasn’t interested. Rat shrugged. He stepped back and shot it through the right front knee.
The animal did not make a sound. It went down hard, then got up again, and Rat took careful aim and shot off an ear. He shot it in the hindquarters and in the little hump at its back. He shot it twice in the flanks. It wasn’t to kill; it was to hurt.” (O’Brien, pg. 78-79) How could such a thing be done? I was so moved, so shocked. I wanted to close the book and go no further, but at the same time I wanted to read more. The story wrapped itself up and I continued.
The Things They Carried does not keep up the linear fashion like most novels. It moves to fit his mindset. He approaches human nature as it relates to himself, not to the aspect of the reader. By doing this, I found it very suiting to my own interpretation of the work. Things are different in the context of this book than the average story.
O’Brien offers a change in style from the basic textbook. It seems as if he is not only writing for me but to me. I always thought of soldiers as those who sacrificed themselves for the good of others. Now I see it more like an internal battle between what you know and what you feel. Doing something not so much for “the good of the country”, but to experience it. “..it was just the endless march, village to village, without purpose, nothing won or lost. They marched for the sake of the march.” (O’Brien, pg.