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“The Turning Point”: The Effects Of The Vietnam War According To The Things They Carried

997 words - 4 pages

In Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, the readers follow the Alpha Company’s experiences during the Vietnam War through the telling’s of the main character and narrator, Tim. At the beginning of the story, Tim describes the things that each character carries, also revealing certain aspects of the characters as can be interpreted by the audience. The book delineates what kind of person each character is throughout the chapters. As the novel progresses, the characters’ personalities change due to certain events of the war. The novel shows that due to these experiences during the Vietnam War, there is always a turning point for each soldier, especially as shown with Bob “Rat” Kiley and Azar. With this turning point also comes the loss of innocence for these soldiers. O’Brien covers certain stages of grief and self-blame associated with these events in these stories as well in order to articulate just how those involved felt so that the reader can imagine what the effects of these events would be like for them had they been a part of it.
When Bob “Rat” Kiley, the medic for a majority of the story, is first introduced by Tim, it is stated in “The Things They Carried” that “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 especially bad wounds...” and at first, the things that he carries make sense in conjunction with the mention of his being a medic, but the fact that Tim says “comic books” and “M&M’s for especially bad wounds” as necessities for a medic also shows Rat Kiley’s personality (13). It spells him out as a character who cares about the emotions of others, considering a medic is one who would usually take care of physically wounds only. Not only does Tim show Rat Kiley as a helpful person, he also reminds the audience of Rat’s innocence in the scene during “Spin” when Rat creates the catchy phrase, “Step out of line, hit a mine; follow the dink, you’re in the pink” and in “How to Tell a True War Story” in the scene right before Curt Lemon’s death when the two are playing chicken with a grenade (30). Although he is at war, he is making a game of it; it is a bit like the song scene in that it shows his childlike qualities.
Azar is immediately pinpointed as the character with the most cruelness at the opening of the story, as shown in “Spin” when a boy with one leg asks Azar for a chocolate bar, Azar states, “War’s a bitch...One leg, for Chissake. Some poor fucker ran out of ammo,” with the understanding that Azar identifies more with the shooter than feeling sorry for the child (29). Another example of Azar’s personality is shown, once again, in “Spin” when he straps Ted Lavender’s orphan puppy...

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