Fear Of Death In Tim O Brien's The Things They Carried

1365 Words 6 Pages
Amidst the diverse experiences of humanity, the uncertainty of death is a universal truth. In Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, courage, fear, and shame play a pivotal role in how humans react to death. The soldiers in the novel struggle with having the courage to confront their innate fear of death. Failing to overcome this fear causes the soldiers to feel shame as a result of the underlying guilt from realizing their cowardice. However, in order for them to be truly courageous, it is imperative that they accept the discomfort of validating and combating their own weaknesses and fears related to death.
The soldiers develop shame as they realize how their cowardice in addressing their fear of death affects themselves and others. In “Friends”,
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In The Things They Carried, courage is an essential virtue required in order to experience fear and shame. As a part of innate human nature, mankind looks to resist vulnerability, and instead emanate strength. Courage when faced with the fear of death transcends internal and external scrutiny or shame. O’Brien allows one to feel shame and fear because overcoming the stigma of looking weak and the possibility of dying validates the emotions. O’Brien states, “I feared the war yes, but I also feared exile. I was afraid of walking away from my own life, my friends and family, my whole history, everything that mattered to me," (O’Brien 42). While fear of imminent death lingers within most soldiers, the social norm of all men details a dedicated love and loyalty to their country for most, but not O’Brien. He exhibits courage when admitting his fear of war because he is counteracting the social norm of loving to fight for your country, and admits to a moment of weakness. The fear of death and its unknown pushes Dave Jensen and Lee Strunk to create a treaty, but when faced with the scenario, Strunk courageously says, “[Y]ou gotta promise. Swear it to me-swear you won't kill me," (O’Brien 63). Although there was a promise broken, asking not to be killed was a courageous action committed by Strunk. He admits his fear of dying and transcends internal and external shame for seeming cowardly to himself and his peers. Humans naturally do not want to admit to their mistakes, therefore making it courageous to do so. O’Brien acknowledges of shame when Jergensen admits his fault in O’Brien’s near death experience, by saying; “Listen, man, I fucked up,” … 'What else can I say? I'm sorry. When you got hit, I kept telling myself to move, move, but I couldn't do it,” (O’Brien 189). O’Brien focuses the theme of looking death in the eye, and yet has courage to admit fear or shame in doing so. Amid death

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