The Things They Carried is a novel written by Vietnam Veteran Tim O’Brien. The Vietnam War took place between 1955 and 1975. Most of the soldiers fighting were young teenage men around the age of eighteen and nineteen years old. Like O’Brien many of these young men were pulled away from their families and life to fight a war they didn’t approve of or even know about. This had a strong affect on most of these men and O’Brien uses different ways to show how the Vietnam War affected them both physically and mentally. In order to display these affects he constantly relates different things in battle to a normal life back at home. Through the use of storytelling, fear, and physical and emotional burdens, O’Brien creates a certain environment that shows how the Vietnam War affected himself and these men. These themes are most apparent in “How to tell a true War story”, “The Lives of the dead”, “The Dentist”, and “On The Rainy River”.
Through the use of storytelling O’Brien relates different situations and stressful events to the experiences the soldiers encountered throughout the war. O’Brien shows that as a narrator the storyteller has the ability to form the readers experiences and opinions. In a way he has the ability to distort a readers perceptions by making different situations and events seem pleasant when in fact they are gruesome and unpredictable. Curt Lemons death is an example of how the narrator distorts the reader’s perception. Curt was killed by stepping on a rigged mortar round while playing a game with Rat Kiley. His body was blown into pieces and thrown into the tree that Rat and him were playing under. This is a very gruesome and horrific scene that the soldiers had to experience but O’Brien sees it differently. He describes it as sort of peaceful in a way; he says,
They were just goofing. There was a noise, I suppose, which must’ve been the detonator, so I glanced behind me and watched Lemon step from the shade into bright sunlight. His face was suddenly brown and shinning. A handsome kid, really. Sharp gray eyes, lean and narrow-waisted, and when he died it was almost beautiful, the way the sunlight came around him and lifted him up and sucked him high into a tree full of moss and vines and white blossoms. (O’Brien 67)
This narrator turns Lemon’s tragic death into a seemingly peaceful death. It was like Curt became one with the nature of Vietnam and it just engulfed him. Even though that’s not what actually happened the reader is convinced of what seemed to happen through the narrators prospective. Which is a major point O’Brien brings up in this chapter. O’Brien not only uses storytelling as a way to manipulate readers but he also uses storytelling as a way to keep his experiences and the Vietnam war in general alive.
O’ Brien tends to relate his life during the war to his life before and after the war. He specifically focuses on the stories that had a strong emotional effect to him and shows...