The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien Book Review

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The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is a story published in 1990. It is about a group of soldiers in Vietnam war. As any good author O’Brien wanted to write a story worth reading. O’Brien with use of various literary devises showed us what it was like to be at war.

No one wanted to die and at the same time no one wanted to look like a coward. “They died so as not to die of embarrassment.” (O’Brien) It is difficult to imagine what it was like to be drafted and be doing things just because you ended up there and when other rely on you as much as you rely on them. “Their principles where in their feet. Their calculations were biological. They had no sense of strategy or mission.” (O’Brien)

Throughout the story the author successfully uses repetition “they carried” not only to describe personal items, weapons, equipment, or diseases but also memories and feelings. “They carried all emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing – there were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight.”(O’Brien) Weight of items carried was significant as well. Difficult missions required them to take everything and everything is very heavy.

Hyperbole is an exaggerated statement that emphasizes the significance of the statement’s actual meaning. “They carried the land itself – Vietnam, the place, the soil – a powdery orange- red dust that covered their boots and fatigues and faces.” (O’Brien).

Some things they carried were superstitious and good-luck charms are comforting and improve your hope. A pebble, rabbit’s foot, and a thumb were noted. The author uses imagery to describe it. “The thumb was dark brown, rubbery to the touch, and weighted 3 ounces at most.” (O’Brien) The irony is that the thumb was carried by otherwise a very gentle person.

Kiowa who saw his friend get shot in the head used a simile to compare his fall to a falling rock or a sandbag. “ Kiowa, who saw it happen, said it was like watching a rockfall, or a big sandbag or something – just boom, then down – not like the movies where the dead guy rolls around and does fancy spins and goes ass over teakettle – not like that, Kiowa said, the poor bastard just flat-fuck fell.” (O’Brien)

Development of the main character Lt. Cross can be observed by the end of the story. He is a lovesick 24 years old who kept daydreaming about his love, Martha. Being distracted from performing his duties resulted in a death of his comrade. Blaming himself and Martha Lt. Cross burns letters and photographs he received from her and vows to become a hardened commanding officer and “reminded himself that his obligation was not to be loved but to lead.” (O’Brien) Burning letters and photographs is a motif that represents letting things go or even a sacrifice needed in order to improve.

In conclusion I admit that I liked the story. It is emotional, has a good ending and lives you with something to think about. Tim O’Brien’s interesting writing style is captivating and tells a lot about Vietnam war.


Cite this paper

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien Book Review. (2021, Jan 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-things-they-carried-by-tim-obrien-book-review/

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