This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

Myth Of Courage Exposed In The Things They Carried

2700 words - 11 pages

Ah for a young man
all looks fine and noble if he goes down in war,
hacked to pieces under a slashing bronze blade
he lies there dead. . .but whatever death lays bare
all wounds are marks of glory. (Homer 22.83-87)  

As students we are brainwashed by ancient myths such as The Iliad, where war is extolled and the valorous warrior praised. Yet, modern novels such as Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried (THINGS) challenge those very notions. Like The Iliad, THINGS is about war. It is about battles and soldiers, victory and survival, yet the message O'Brien gives us in THINGS runs almost contradictory to the traditional war story. Whereas traditional stories of war take place on battlefields where soldier battles soldier and the mettle of man is tested, O'Brien's battle occurs in the shadowy, private place of a soldier's mind. Like the Vietnam War itself, THINGS forces Americans to question the foundations of their beliefs and values because it calls attention to the inner conscience. More than a war story, O'Brien's The Things They Carried is an expose on personal courage. Gone are the brave and glorious warriors such as those found in the battle of Troy. In THINGS, they are replaced by young men who experience not glory or bravery, but fear, horror, and a personal sense of shame. As mythic courage clashes with the modern's experience of it, a battle is waged in THINGS that isn't confined to the rice-patties, jungles, and shit-fields of Vietnam. Carrying more than the typical soldier's wares, O'Brien's narrator is armed with an arsenal of feelings and words that slash away at an invisible enemy that is the myth of courage, on an invisible battlefield that is the Vietnam veteran's mind.

An analysis of structure in THINGS is important to our exploration of courage within the narrative, because it creates an atmosphere in which belief must be suspended. What the reader experiences while reading the novel, is entirely different from what he expects from a typical war story. Absolutes must be absent from the text, if O'Brien is to illustrate how any of our mythologies, including courage, frequently fail to meet up to actual experience.

As many have noted, O'Brien ingeniously facilitates a mood of incongruity, or disconnection, between fiction and fact in The Things They Carried through sheer structure. By blurring lines between fantasy and reality, THINGS truly becomes a contradiction of itself. As Catherine Calloway notes, one of the ways in which O'Brien achieves this blurring of lines, is to model the narrator of THINGS after himself, a drafted Vietnam war veteran, a Harvard graduate, and a writer with the same name of Tim O'Brien (para. 3). O'Brien is aware that the practiced reader knows not to confuse the narrator with the author, and yet the reader is encouraged to do just that. The purpose, of course, is to keep the reader as unbalanced, as unsure, of what we are told to be truths, as is the Vietnam soldier.


Find Another Essay On Myth of Courage Exposed in The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried Essay

641 words - 3 pages this piece is the way in which the author details the life that the soldiers are living during the time of war. We are constantly told of the things they are carrying in their fight. There are descriptions of ammunition, guns, candy, cigarettes and many other items that are used daily. We are exposed to the danger they are in and are aware of the nature of the people that are on patrol with this group of soldiers. By creating this descriptive

The Things They Carried Essay

1581 words - 6 pages Running Header: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien 1The Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienENG 1300 W5A2Andrea CarrSouth University OnlineThe Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien "The Things They Carried" is one of several short stories written by Tim O'Brien that brilliantly portrays a squad of young American soldiers in the Vietnam War. Each of the short stories builds on the last but in The Things They Carried the author places focus on how

The Things They Carried

1646 words - 7 pages . Tim O’Brien accomplishes basically the same goal in The Things They Carried by giving the reader many brief stories about his time in the Vietnam War. These two books- though incredibly different on the surface - share a plethora of themes and symbology, as well as many similar events. They do not, however, emphasize or present these ideas in the same way. Each of these authors has a unique way of incorporating their own themes or values into

The Things They Carried

1707 words - 7 pages )”. They also carried various things that they came upon that they thought could help them survive until tomorrow. The weight that the men carried was only partly physical, the mental and emotional ‘weight’ was almost as much to carry as the physical objects the men trudged with. In fact, the mental weight and the stress of having to maintain a facade that they were not afraid were the heaviest weighing upon the deepest parts of the soldiers

The Things They Carried

1515 words - 7 pages In The Things they carried, Tim O’Brien uses a large list of things a soldier carries. Weather it be a good luck charm, chewing gum, gun/ammunition or recreational drugs. This displays a window in to the emotional burdens that all soldier bear. One major burden for these poor soldier is confronting the tension between reality and fantasy. We see the tension in LT Jimmy Cross with his infatuation for Martha. Each day when the soldier made camp or

the things they carried

1095 words - 5 pages Wars tends to be the matter of historical record and soldiers are considered as emotionless machines just obeying the orders in the war. Nobody cares about the individual soldier who actually fights in a war. "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien is about a soldier who is trying to communicate with civilians and tell them what he went through before and during the war. At times there is recitation of the uninteresting items

"The Things They Carried"

2145 words - 9 pages Tran PAGE \* MERGEFORMAT 7 Huy TranProfessor SantilloENG1102-25124 April, 2014Themes Analysis in "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien."The Things They Carried", written by Tim O'Brien and first published in 1990, is rated one of the best literary work about the Vietnam War. Stretching across the story are Tim's memories about Vietnam and some real events that he and his platoon mates experienced. Jimmy Cross, Rat Kiley, Ted Lavender, Henry

The Things They Carried

740 words - 3 pages , O'Brien does not truly following a classical narrative structure. But needless to say the characters are introduced in the beginning of the story by the items they carried with them. One item that is oddly mention in the story is the candy M&M's. “ As a medic, Rat Kiley carried a canvas satchel filled with morphine and plasma and malaria tablets and surgical tape and comic books and all the things a medic must carry, including M&M's for

The Things They Carried - 1026 words

1026 words - 4 pages determination and to overcome this conflict he does not stop and turn back, but rather he marches on.It was very sad to him, the things men carried inside, for his case his obsession with Martha, was heavier than the detailed descriptive text of the physical items that were used in combat. Jim hides this change by juxtaposing it with his leadership of his platoon. Jim shows righteous behavior by telling his troops to move out and onward. From this point on

The Things They Carried - 668 words

668 words - 3 pages Kelsea SilviaAssignment 2ENGL1001-090As I read "Speaking of Courage" by Tim O'Brien. I thought of many ways to interpret the story's meaning. However, after much pondering and reflection I feel that the road around the lake that Bowker incircles continuously throughout the story leads to the true meaning of the entire story. There are many instances in the story of people and objects going nowhere. Everything and everyone he sees along the road

the things they carried

668 words - 3 pages Kelsea SilviaAssignment 2ENGL1001-090As I read "Speaking of Courage" by Tim O'Brien. I thought of many ways to interpret the story's meaning. However, after much pondering and reflection I feel that the road around the lake that Bowker incircles continuously throughout the story leads to the true meaning of the entire story. There are many instances in the story of people and objects going nowhere. Everything and everyone he sees along the road

Similar Essays

Things They Carried Essay: Strength In The Things They Carried

981 words - 4 pages Strength in The Things They Carried      Everybody has to deal with adversity at some point in their lives. The adversity that they go through varies from person to person. For First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, he had to make it through the Vietnam War alive. In the short story, "The Things They Carried," where Cross draws his strength from is somewhat unclear. He seems strong at the beginning of the story, but then again, he also seems to be

The Things They Carried Essay

563 words - 2 pages Chandy Thorn Thorn 1Cynde DelauderEnglish 11130 September 2014"In many respects, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried concerns the relationship between fiction and the narrator" (Friedlander 1). The story that O'Brien writes is not a true story, however he can relate to it because he was an active participant in Vietnam. Tim O'Brien wrote much more than a war time story. Tim O'Brien wrote a Story, of pain, hardship, love, and the heavy burdens

The Things They Carried Essay

1053 words - 4 pages Untitled The Things They Carried In The Things They Carried O'Brien Challenges such Traditional concepts of war stories such as courage, bravery, heroism and masculinity. Though their painful experiences his characters are burdened by fear shame and guilt... the things they must carry for the rest of their lives. Bold, brave, strong rugged, heroic, laughing in the face of hardship, adversity and even death. These are the

The Things They Carried Essay 1000 Words

1000 words - 4 pages "The Things They Carried," is a fiction story-telling book about the Vietnam War by Tim O'Brien that describes the physical and emotional burdens the men carry not only during their time in Vietnam but also years after leaving the warfront. The book is a series of stories told with O'Brien as the main narrator. O'Brien tells of the journey he takes alongside his unit, revealing his fight for courage and decision to commit to the serving in the