Things They Carried By Tim O Brien: Chapter Analysis

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In the novel, The Things They Carried, the author, Tim O’Brien, purposely places the stories out of chronological order in order for readers to fully feel the impact and importance of the stories and make them come to life. He begins by writing tales as if they were real and later admits they were simply stories made up to keep the dead alive. A particular story that stood out was the piece surrounding Curt Lemon. Towards the beginning, there is a story of how Bob Kiley wrote a letter to Curt Lemon’s sister after his death and mentions how the man painted himself up and went trick-or-treating on Halloween in a village in “just boots and balls and an M-16”. By inserting this story in the beginning the readers automatically associate Curt Lemon …show more content…
While reading the novel, it is very obvious to readers that the stories throughout the text are not in chronological order. This was no accident. The author goes on talking about events in the war and then switches to pre-war and post-war events. Early on in the book he discusses the men in the war and events that took place while fighting in Vietnam and suddenly flashes back to his pre-war life in the chapter titled “On the Rainy River”. In this chapter he discusses the troubling decision that constantly stayed on his mind. He had to decide if he would do the honorable thing and go to war or if he would do the brave thing and skip out on the war by moving to Canada. If O’Brien added this story in the proper order, it would change the overall direction of the novel. It would no longer be a collection of war stories that impacted this mans life, but a story of how one “cowardly” decision determined this man’s destiny. Another chapter where O’Brien defies chronological order is the last chapter which is titled “The Lives of the Dead”. In this chapter he tells about the death of his first love, Linda, that took place during his childhood. He includes this seemingly irrelevant story in order to sum up the novel. When readers finish the book, he does not want them to walk away thinking that the purpose of the novel was to inform them of what it is like to actually be in the war. O’Brien wants to show them the significance and meaning of death and how it is all the …show more content…
Many themes are portrayed in the novel, “The Things They Carried”, but the two that are consistently shown throughout the book are how prone humans are to guilt and how hard weakness can drive a man to make a decision. O’Brien purposely places stories out of order so that certain themes are mentioned continuously throughout the book, rather than just in one place. Guilt haunts almost every character in the text. At the beginning of the novel, Jimmy Cross feels he is guilty for Ted Lavenders death because he was too busy thinking about Martha when Lavender was shot. Guilt is brought up again towards the middle of the novel when Kiowa dies in the sewage field. Norman Bowker feels guilty because he could not pull Kiowa out of the mud when he sank. At the very end of the text Tim O’Brien mentioned the guilt he still feels to this day for not standing up for Linda when Nick Veenhof would attempt to pull off her red cap. Guilt is placed on the characters throughout the novel even though they had no reason to be guilty. The second theme, weakness, is first seen when Tim O’Brien tells the story of how he was too weak to work up the courage to run away to Canada. When the opportunity to flee is right at his fingertips, he stays in the boat with the old man and can do nothing but sob. In the chapter titled “The Dentist”, Curt Lemon shows his devout fear of dentists. When it is his turn to get his teeth checked, he passes out. He is mortified that this happens because it

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