Themes Within "The Things They Carried" By Tim O'brien

1182 words - 5 pages

Tim O'Brien, author and veteran, covers several multiple in his novel The Things They Carried. The book bases itself on the psychological strain caused by the stress and conflicting interests in the war. O'Brien wants us to see what he's afraid to look back at. Story truth is his way of facing the confronting the past and admitting his responsibility in it. O'Brien tells his stories from a constant gush of memories. Emotions and morals are among the more evident themes covered in the novel. Pain, embarrassment, love, hate, loneliness, frustration, isolation, bravery, and struggles with morality. All of these, and combinations of these are religiously covered in the book. Though people not involved in a war could never even begin to understand, not even an ounce of what happened; O'Brien uses these themes and emotions to help describe the crude and passionate feelings that the veterans felt throughout the war.Pain is one of the better know feelings about Vietnam. It still affects many Vietnam War veterans in many forms. Even though the war ended over 25 years ago, O'Brien shows that the trauma associated with the war has had mental and physical effects on the soldiers since the war has passed. Because of this pain, it only makes sense that O'Brien illustrates and reflects on the pains he and others felt during the war. Pain is caused by so many of the emotions used in this book, that it becomes difficult not to realize its' significance in the book. The guilt caused by killing a man, even though he would have killed you. The mental torment felt when watching your comrade being scraped off of a tree. "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 shining. 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 p.70). These are the types of pains that can only be understood by having felt them yourself, the type of pain that lives deep within you forever, whether you want to remember it or not.Embarrassment was probably one of the more hidden feelings in the war. In the chapter titled On the Rainy River, O'Brien tells of something so deeply embarrassing, that he was too ashamed to tell even his closest friends, and family. He, being an anti-war individual at the time, would rationally have been opposed to fighting for a cause he didn't believe in. He ran. Running was a popular choice for those who were opposed to, or just scared of, war. "At some point in mid-July I began thinking seriously about Canada. The border lay a few hundred miles north, and eight-hour drive. Both my conscience and my instincts were telling me to make a break for it, just take off and run like hell and never stop."(O'Brien p.44). In...

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