Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried portrays the struggles of soldier’s in war. The novel ultimately is a way for the author to cope with death and keep the memories of his platoon alive. Susan Wittig Albert writes:
“Storytelling is healing. As we reveal ourselves in story, we become aware of the continuing core of our lives under the fragmented surface of our experience. We become aware of the multifaceted, multichaptered ' I ' who is the storyteller. We can trace out the paradoxical and even contradictory versions of ourselves that we create for different occasions, different audiences... Most important, as we become aware of ourselves as storytellers, we realize that what we understand and imagine about ourselves is a story. And when we know all this, we can use our stories to heal and make ourselves whole.”
Tim O’Brien portrays himself as an author, narrator, storyteller, and character throughout twenty-two vignettes. Each perspective helps him achieve his purpose for writing the novel.
Tim O’Brien, as the author, is able to explore the horror of the war zone through his novel. Each vignette is a coping mechanism that helps heal him; he is able to keep the fallen’s memory alive through stories. In Ambush, O’Brien writes, “Even now I haven’t finished sorting it out. Sometimes I forgive myself, other times I don’t” (134). The tragedies of war have left a lasting mark on him. Several men, including Norman Bowker, request a short story; some want to be portrayed as a hero, and others are simply looking to find peace. Bowker, unlike O’Brien, has trouble rejoining society. The author writes, “‘Speaking of Courage’ was written in 1975 at the suggestion of Norman Bowker, who three years later hanged himself in the locker room of a YMCA in his hometown in central Iowa” (154). The man was, unfortunately, depressed. The primary difference between Bowker and O’Brien is that the latter learns how to cope with the difficulties of returning from war; he writes novels. In Notes O’Brien states, “I did not look at my work as therapy, and still don’t. Yet when I received Norman Bowker’s letter, it occurred to me that the act of writing had led me through...