Foils In The Things They Carried

Good Essays
Despite the widespread controversy and questionable motivations of the Vietnam War, a study conducted shows that 74% of Vietnam veterans would serve again, even knowing the outcome (Roush). This statistic makes sense, because according to the same report 2/3 of the soldiers were volunteers, not conscripted soldiers. Tim O’Brien’s novel, The Things They Carried, although a fictional book, very accurately depicts the hardships faced on a normal basis by soldiers serving in Vietnam. The author rarely talks about himself during the war in the book. He instead focuses on describing the other men in his platoon, characterizing them by the unique objects they physically carry with them and the emotional burdens they hold onto both during and after …show more content…
Ted is killed almost at the beginning of his time in the war by an enemy sniper that shoots him in head and Norman Bowker commits suicide in his hometown years after the war ended. Norman Bowker is focused on doing his best in the war so that he can collect and take home his war medals. Ted is only involved in the war because he has to be and does not go above and beyond like Norman does. O 'Brien explains how isolated Norman told him he was in a letter shortly before he committed suicide, he says, “there’s no place to go. Not just in this lousy little town. In general. My life, I mean. It’s almost like I got killed over in Nam . . . Hard to describe” (O’Brien 231). The reason he thinks he was “killed” in Vietnam was because he allowed himself to believe that he let his comrade Kiowa die in the mud field when he let go of his boot and he sunk under the mud. Kiowa actually died from an enemy mortar round hitting his face, so he was dead instantly and there was nothing Norman could have done to save him. Norman formed tight bonds with all his army buddies and was not able to do that with anyone else after returning home. His father tries to lend his son an ear to talk about the war, but Norman will not open up because he does not think a civilian will understand his feelings from the war. He had built up all the emotional trauma he suffered from …show more content…
As the group’s combat medic, he formed close bonds with them like everyone else, but was responsible for keeping someone alive should they be injured in battle and possibly have a friend die in his arms. During a particularly intense part of the war, the orders were to move only at night and sleep during the day. This dramatic change in routine made all the soldiers a little crazy, but nobody was as profoundly affected as Rat Kiley. He scratched at the bites from exotic bugs until he started to rip open his skin and could not manage the intense gore. O 'Brien describes how he behaved while trying to cope with all the death occurring around them. He says, “At first Rat just sank inside himself, not saying a word, but then later on, after five or six days, it flipped the other way. He couldn’t stop talking. Wacky talk, too” (O’Brien 322). Like the case with Norman Bowker, this shows the danger in trying to completely contain one 's emotions. Unlike Norman Bowker, the emotions overtook Rat Kiley much more acutely. As a result of Rat’s problem occurring during the war, he saw hope that his life would be better back in United States. As a medic he probably dealt with “accidental” foot shootings in which soldiers could be discharged from the war. He decided to follow them and take the painful, yet easy way out of the conflict that caused him so much inner turmoil. At the risk of embarrassment and shame, Rat did the

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