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Commentary On The Things They Carried By Tim O´Brien

1195 words - 5 pages

The title of the book itself couldn’t be more fitting. The Things They Carried is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Tim O'Brien about soldiers trying to live through the Vietnam War. These men deal with many struggles and hardships. Throughout this essay I will provide insight into three of the the numerous themes seen throughout the novel: burdens, truth, and death.
The first theme is the most prevalent of them all. Literally, the things they carried. The soldiers carried physical burdens of course but they carried something even heavier. They carried internal burdens. Many burdens are obvious in every soldier in the story, such as guilt. The character that feels the most guilt is Lieutenant Jimmy Cross. “Lieutenant Cross felt the pain. He blamed himself” (page 14). As the leader of the platoon, Jimmy Cross feels the weight brought by death of a soldier the closest. As the leader he believes it is his fault when a soldier dies. Cross falls into a depression due to the weight of the guilt he feels. Not all the weight may seem as heavy as guilt but there are many other burdens. Another being self image. Most of the soldiers carried this burden as well. The burden shows its great effect when Curt Lemon is about to be checked by the Dentist. Before the Dentist can even lay a finger on Lemon, he faints. This exposed a weak side in Lemon that he didn’t want anyone in the troop to see. Later that night Lemon went to the Dentist’s tent and demanded that his tooth be pulled due to a killer toothache. Even though the Dentist saw nothing wrong with the tooth, he pulled it out. Lemon was able to look like he never had a fear in front of the other soldiers (pronoun- he, antecedent- Lemon). Lemon was so desperate to save his image that he had a perfectly good tooth pulled just so that image wouldn’t change. The third thing I want to expand upon is the fear that was in every mind in the war whether they tried to ignore it or live with it. Fear is expressed most obviously when we see it almost killed O’Brien. The new troop medic, Jorgenson, didn’t know how to handle a situation where O’Brien was shot. Jorgenson’s fear of that situation brought on his incompetence (pronoun- his, antecedent-Jorgenson). The weight of the fear Jorgenson felt was too much of a burden, so much so that he cracked under pressure. All of these internal burdens caused plenty of harm to not only those who felt it but mainly those surrounding them almost killing some.
The second theme I want to bring to attention is the distinction between a true and an untrue war story. This is touched upon very frequently through the novel. Can we really believe any war story? O’Brien says that, “If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude...

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