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Things They Carried By O`Brien 

Things They Carried By O`BrienThe Things They Carried is written from the perspective of the author, Tim
O’Brien. The book is a compilation of his stories and experiences relating to
the Vietnam War. It encompasses the events and lives of himself, the other
members of his company, and the war as a whole. Tim O’Brien, of no important
rank, is a solider in the Alpha Company that heads out most operations of Nam.

They are the first troop to stake out land, the first to raid the villages, the
trailblazers through the minefields. They are the best of the best. As the story
is told, First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross heads his troops across the marshes and
paddies of Vietnam. It is in him the men must trust. As war for me goes, I had
no foundation for what to expect. Being that I have never seen any war movies or
read anything like this before, this, in essence, was my first realistic
exposure to war. In my choosing this book, what I did expect was to have a book
that I could relate to, as well as one that was written about someone’s personal
experience. And that is exactly what I got. Many stories, written as second-hand
experience of O’Brien, take place before many soldiers are placed in or called
to Alpha. They also reflect on how O’Brien interprets them. No war story is told
without a twist or turn of the truth. Details are imagined, and dreamed up to
how the teller finds most appropriate. “Vietnam was full of strange
stories, some improbable, some well beyond that, but the stories that will last
forever are those that swirl back and forth across the border between trivia and
bedlam, the mad and the mundane.” (O’Brien, pg. 89) This bias is the basis
to a war story. Stories come from speculation, some from absolute fact, others
from pure lies. From their origin on, truth relies on the eye of the beholder.

“In many cases a true war story cannot be believed. If you believe it, be
skeptical. It’s a question of credibility. Often the crazy stuff is true, and
the normal stuff isn’t, because the normal stuff is necessary to make you
believe the truly incredible craziness.” (O’Brien, pg. 71) For troops,
there is no other purpose than to hump their stuff, follow orders and carry
their hearts, which they shove, to the bottom of the bag. Many of the troops are
burdened with emotion, others with true weight or harsh responsibility. What
they hold, they hold dear. If the object had no value, or they just got tired,
they’d leave things for waste by the side of their trail. “They would often
discard things along the route of march. Purely for comfort, they would throw
away rations, blow their Claymores and grenades, no matter, because by nightfall
the resupply choppers would arrive with more of the same… and for all the
ambiguities of Vietnam, all the mysteries and unknowns, there was at least a
single abiding certainty that they would never be at a loss for things to
carry.” (O’Brien, pg. 15,16) O’Brien has such a power for words relating to
the true emotion of the war. Feelings have such contrast, going from no regard,
to the only care in the world. Though this story calls itself fiction, you’ll
have a hard time believing it. The realism, the captivity of emotions, tore at
my heart, then turned around and angered me where I considered not reading any
more. For example, here’s a small story: “Later, higher in the mountains,
we came across a baby VC water buffalo. What it was doing there, I don’t
know-but we chased it down and got a rope around it, and led it along to a
deserted village where we set up for the night. After supper, Rat Kiley went
over and stroked its nose. He opened up a can of C rations, pork and beans, but
the baby buffalo wasn’t interested. Rat shrugged. He stepped back and shot it
through the right front knee. The animal did not make a sound. It went down
hard, then got up again, and Rat took careful aim and shot off an ear. He shot
it in the hindquarters and in the little hump at its back. He shot it twice in
the flanks. It wasn’t to kill; it was to hurt.” (O’Brien, pg. 78-79) How
could such a thing be done? I was so moved, so shocked. I wanted to close the
book and go no further, but at the same time I wanted to read more. The story
wrapped itself up and I continued. The Things They Carried does not keep up the
linear fashion like most novels. It moves to fit his mindset. He approaches
human nature as it relates to himself, not to the aspect of the reader. By doing
this, I found it very suiting to my own interpretation of the work. Things are
different in the context of this book than the average story. O’Brien offers a
change in style from the basic textbook. It seems as if he is not only writing
for me but to me. I always thought of soldiers as those who sacrificed
themselves for the good of others. Now I see it more like an internal battle
between what you know and what you feel. Doing something not so much for
“the good of the country”, but to experience it. “…it was just
the endless march, village to village, without purpose, nothing won or lost.

They marched for the sake of the march.” (O’Brien, pg. 15)