Literary Devices In The Things They Carried

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A former sergeant in the army and a writer, Tim O’Brien, in his short story, “The Things They Carried,” examines the experiences of Vietnam soldiers in combat and how tangible --but most importantly, intangible – burdens affect them. O’Brien seeks to inform people who have not participated in a war about physical and mental difficulties that can affect humans in their journey during battle, and how these distractions create chaos. O’Brien’s piece is not narrated chronologically from the beginning of the soldiers’ voyage to villages west of Than Khe. Instead, a non-linear structure is presented through the author’s use of flashback and foreshadowing. Throughout the piece, the author demonstrates an emotional, detached tone to connect the reader …show more content…
The author clearly states in the second opening sentence that although Cross is enamored with Martha, the letters received embody no true affection from her. Nevertheless, for Cross, these letters symbolize a sense of hopefulness and a sense of connection to Martha, which he expressed through his need to “sometimes taste the envelope flaps…” that she had licked (O’Brien 417). O’Brien also reveals that Martha never mentioned the war in her letters except to tell Cross to take care of himself. Martha’s disconnection towards Cross implies the intangible burden she is for him – surely, a woman in love with a man would involve herself in his life. Through Cross’ infatuation and Martha’s distance, the writer conveys a detachment between these two characters that creates an imbalance for the …show more content…
This structure signifies Cross’ distraction, generated from his longing for Martha during combat. Similarly, tension builds between Cross and his inability to keep his men safe when Lavender is later shot. O’Brien appeals to the grief-stricken emotions of the audience by acknowledging that “Ted Lavender was dead because [Cross] loved her so much and could not stop thinking about her” (O’Brien 420). This foreshadow of Cross’ inability to protect his men establishes chaos and disorder between what is tangible and intangible. A similar circumstance exists in the popular film, Inception, when the main character, Cobb, can no longer identify his wife as real or fake on his own. In the same way, O’Brien depicts a parallel setting when describing Cross’ personal pity “because [Martha] belonged to another world, which was not quite real…” and Cross understood she never loved him and that her affection would never be gained (O’Brien 424). After, Cross’ acceptance and the burning of the letters, the use of foreshadowing and flashback end to evoke a balance between one’s physical and psychological

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