Literary Analysis of “The Things they Carried” by Tim O`Brien
LiteraryAnalysis of “The Things they Carried” by Tim O`Brien
In his book, Tim O’ Brien tries to explain the ‘things’ thatsoldiers carried with them while they fought during the Vietnam War.These things were both tangible and intangible in the sense that theservicemen carried heavy physical loads, as well as, emotionalburdens such as guilt and fear. The author uses Lieutenant JimmyCross as the main character who portrays the physical and mentalburdens that haunted the soldiers during the war. When Lt. Crossreturns home from the Vietnam, he starts smoking marijuana as heregrets the death of Captain Ted Lavender, which occurred during thebattle (O’Brien 62). His actions and behaviors are symptoms ofPost-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD), which affects people who havewitnessed war combats or serious accidents. Therefore, Tim O’Brien’s fictional work about the Vietnam War is relevant to thetheme of War and PTSD since the author seeks to describe the physicaland emotional burdens carried by soldiers during and after the war.
of the Book and its Relation to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
In a literary analysis of a book, it is important to summarize themajor events that are relevant to the theme being discussed. O’Brienuses a narrator who describes the actions and thoughts of Jimmy Crossin third person. Lt. Cross is selected as the fictional characterthat portrays the soldiers’ mental and physical challenges thatthey face in war. He is preoccupied with thoughts of a young womancalled Martha whom he had dated before he joined the U.S. Army. Thenarrator lists other things that the soldiers carry including thegrenades, jackets and boots that are used in war (O’Brien 67). The‘things’ discussed in the book are both literal and figurative,and this helps the author to bring out some aspects of PTSD such asstress and anxiety disorders.
Physicaland Emotional Burdens
The overarching theme of the book is the physical and emotional loadsthat soldiers carry during and after the war. For example, Lt. Crossis affected by thoughts of terror, grief and love as he leads theArmy unit into war to the point that the captain is killed. JimmyCross is responsible for the service men’s actions that he evencarries maps and compasses for them. This physical burden is used bythe author to emphasize on the seriousness of Lt. Cross’ emotionalthoughts about his girlfriend, Martha. The use of such a literarydevice makes the fictional work relevant to the theme of war and PTSDsince it helps in explains what actually happens in war and whatsoldiers take from their actions after the war is over.
Warand Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
O’Brien is undoubtedly one of the best fictional stories thatdepict what happens in the battlefield, as well as, the repercussionsof war combats to the soldiers involved in such military actions. Theaspect of war is well-illustrated by the author when he providesdetails of what men carry in war such as the standard gear, tear gas,ammunitions, boots and weapons among others. He also adds that thesoldiers also carry certain thoughts about love, grief and longing asthey fight their enemies on the battlefield. Michiko Kakutanisupports the interpretation of the book and the author in an articlepublished in the New York Times. He describes O’Brien as a writerwho gives the reader a sense of what it is like to trek in the desertwith heavy loads and at the same time thinking about your loved ones(Kakutani par. 7). O’Brien book becomes relevant to the currenttheme when he explains the psychological burdens that accompany thesoldiers even after the war. For example, Jimmy Cross is depicted asa man who does not forgive himself for the death of Ted Lavender. Asa result, he starts smoking marijuana, and it is evident that he isexperiencing stress and anxiety disorders due to the traumatizingevents that took place during the war (Gourley 114). Norma Bowker isanother character who expresses grief and confusion in a letter thathe wrote to O’Brien in “Notes” claiming to hang himself(O’Brien 73). It seems that although O’Brien’s book exploresthe emotional and physical burdens as the main theme, the characters’experience is more related to the theme of war and post-traumaticdisorder, an aspect that makes it one of best fictional workregarding PTSD.
Gourley, Shawn. The War at Home: One Family`s Fight Against PTSD.New York: Military with PTSD Incorporated, 2015. Print.
Kakutani, Michiko. Books of The Times Slogging Surreally in theVietnamese Jungle, 1990. Internet Website. Retrieved from:http://www.nytimes.com/1990/03/06/books/books-of-the-times-slogging-surreally-in-the-vietnamese-jungle.htmlon March 28, 2017.
O`Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,2012. Print
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