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The Things They Carried written by Tim O’Brien is a collection of stories about American soldiers in Vietnam. Although the book is referred to as a fictional novel, it reflects some of the autobiographical motives, indeed. The distinctive characteristic of the book is that the author blurs the boundaries of what is real and what is fictional. While simple statement of facts about the war may seem hard to read, the vision of the author on this topic is expressed through several small and seemingly unrelated stories. The purpose of story telling lies in awaking of the emotions of the reader. In order to understand someone and his or hers perception of the world, one should see through the eyes of this person, by putting oneself in the other person’s place.

War is never an easy thing to talk about, especially for those who are involved. Twenty years after returning home, Tim O’Brien wrote a book which many consider the best among those written about the war in Vietnam (Greenya). The Things They Carried is a non-fiction novel as it relates to imaginary within the scope of real. Tim O’Brien masterly combines the fictional and nonfictional parts in his novel. He awakens the compassion in the heart of the reader while it is obvious that the main characters are hardly real. Nonetheless, the imaginary part unites the stories of thousands of soldiers who took part in this war or any other on the whole.

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O’Brien managed to go beyond the similar narratives and introduced a thorough insight into the nature of courage and fear during the warfare (Harris). As the author was in Vietnam himself, his memories played a vital role in shaping his perception of those events to a considerable degree. Although the main character has the same name as the author, it still leaves doubts and makes the reader guess about what part of the fictional O’Brien is real. The book not only shows the war from various perspectives but also fascinates with the sharpest edge of truth and reality (Handschuh).

A person, just like the main characters of the book, is never ready to be involved in awful circumstances of the warfare. Besides various articles of prime necessity in wartime, each of them carries something that reflects their nature and connects with home while they are being in the hostile territories. These items should not be considered as material things since each of them has a definite meaning. The Things They Carried predominately reflects memories and feelings, different stories behind this burden.

Most of the soldiers in Vietnam were inexperienced, young and scared. The toughest burden to carry was the emotional compound as a reaction to happening. When their comrades, like Kiowa, Lavender, Lemon, Strunk, are killed, the characters of the book have to cope with the pain and move on, although it haunts them until their death. Just like facing other nightmares of war, they will always have to deal with these images in their minds bearing the guilt on their shoulders, as well. While the characters are fictional, the author tried to make the reader compassionate about the pain of the main characters in order to get a little closer to understanding what thousands of soldiers feel.

The book distinguishes from other war novels due to its raw honesty and absence of straightforward pride and glory. The platoon of soldiers consists of unprepared young men drawn into the war. Most of them are united by the commonly shared secret of cowardice, each to a certain extent. Wearing masks becomes essential to hide true feelings while the greatest fear of the soldier, according to O’Brien, is the fear of blushing. Thus, “men killed and died, because they were embarrassed not to” (O’Brien). Soldiers pretend as if they do not care and do not feel the gravity of the situation. Just like Azar, they tend to use these masks as a defensive mechanism serving to protect themselves from the horrors of war and try to stay sane in those circumstances.

Among the stories, there is one where the main character makes a confession about his desire to avoid becoming a soldier and fleeing to Canada. Eventually, he rejects his intentions because of the social pressure. Although he was against the war, he could not bear a widespread condemnation. Tim refers to himself as a coward though admitting one’s fears means a greater courage as not everyone is capable to face the harsh reality. Most choose to hide their fears in order to save their faces.

Although all of the stories deal with the way people change during the war, one of them shows it expressively and mystically at the same time. It tells about soldier Fossie and his girlfriend Mary Anne who came to Vietnam. The girl was affected dramatically. Being curious, she embraced everything new around her and was open to adventures while Fossie did not share her enthusiasm. This misunderstanding led to her disappearance as if she had vanished into her new reality where she could define her future for herself. The story seems unfeasible, though it shows how everyone, regardless of sex, can be affected by the given circumstances.

The Things They Carried also deals with the consequences of the war that leaves its mark in every soul. Memories do not disappear even when a person wants them to vanish. The ghostly images of the past haunt people even when everything has come to an end. Norman Bowker, Henry Dobbins, Jimmy Cross and even narrator himself face this uncertainty of their new reality after the war. When they are back at home, nothing feels the same. Furthermore, no one will ever truly understand what they have gone through, what terrors they have faced and what burden they carry with them until their last day.

Nevertheless, remembering has a positive effect. It can revive those who are gone for a long time, but always stay in human’s hearts. The main characters try to avoid accepting their recent losses by telling stories about their perished friends. O’Brien faced the necessity of keeping the memories of person alive early in his life, when his girlfriend Linda died from a brain tumor at the age of nine years old. Remembering and telling stories can bring the dead back to life and make a person feel as if they are near.

Fictional O’Brian keeps writing about Vietnam because those stories have never left his mind. Thus, it is a way to release pressure and keep those memories alive. Each soldier experiences the moral paradoxes and struggles of being human during the war. The Things They Carried relates about the war only on the surface, while deep inside it is a thorough insight into a human being’s heart and thoughts. The whole book is a collection of iridescent memories, and not all of them are pleasant, not all of them are bitter; however, what unites them all is their endurance.

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Code: writers15

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