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The Things They Carried Essay

1555 words - 7 pages

In Tim O’Brien’s novel, “The Things They Carried,” imagination is seen to be both beneficial and harmful. This novel consists of a story truth and a real truth. Tim O’Brien writes the book about the Vietnam War based primarily on his memory of the war. He does not remember every detail of the war, thus he makes up some false details to make the story seem more interesting. He does not only describe his own experiences, but also describe the experiences of other characters. He wants the readers to be able to feel and understand how he felt during the events of the story; he wants to provoke an emotional truth. O’Brien tries to prove that imagination is not completely a bad thing and that it ...view middle of the document...

Smith is saying that story truth does not provide the reality of war, in which it stays away from reality of war, just like how Jimmy’s imagination of him and Martha was not related to the reality of war. Similarly, when O’Brien got drafted to the war, he did not want to go because he does not want to die. However, he was too embarrassed not to. He uses his imaginary story character to show how he would have escaped and attempted to flee to Canada to avoid the war but he was also afraid to. O’Brien has these images in his head where he thinks of what his community would say about him if he did escape and run away from the war. In the end, he decides to go to war because he does not want to feel embarrassed by his community. O’Brien’s story about fleeing away from the war and the story about Jimmy and Martha does not deal with the reality of war, they both tries to escape from reality. O’Brien tries to invent something that he has never done before. Thus, many stories from the novel may feel so real but most of them are just a story that O’Brien has created. In addition to when he attempts to flee to Canada to avoid the war, yet in reality he did not.
O’Brien uses his imagination to feel more relieved and calm. O’Brien is afraid of going to war, of killing someone and of seeing dead bodies on the field. However, O’Brien is able to kill after a while of getting used to the environment and feeling embarrassed not to. O’Brien does not know much about the young man that he killed, yet he is able to describe the young man like they have known each other for many years by using his imagination. He starts to write short war stories that mixes reality and his imagination together to make things better after the war. He is able to talk about his past experience with war by letting out all the guilty feelings he has within himself after killing a man in a story. According to Maria S. Bonn, from CLC Part 2, “O’Brien is very conscious of his position as an intermediary between those with personal knowledge of the war…he cannot advise or teach. All he can do is tell his war stories…” (169). This shows that O’Brien was aware of his position and only tell his war stories to be relieved, not to teach others about his knowledge of war. He uses the power of storytelling and imagination to tell people about his war stories and share the stories to the world to be relieved and to have a purpose to live for. On the other hand, Bowker, who has lost his purpose in life and has no one to talk to about his war experience, committed suicide because he does not know what else he can do after the war. Therefore, imagination and storytelling can help them be relieved and calm.
Furthermore, O’Brien uses imagination to make us believe things that are not real or to confuse us on what is actually real and what is not. As Tobey Herzog stated, “To accomplish this goal he plays with the book’s form and content to affect readers and illustrate points about the craft of...

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