Irony In The Things They Carried

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The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien explores the experiences of a platoon from the Vietnam war in a series of short stories. The stories go deeper than the events of the war, they show the moral dilemmas soldiers face everyday in the battlefield. Tim O’Brien served in the Vietnam war, but these stories are not based off of his experience, although it plays a role in his storytelling. Most of the short stories are written in first person from the perspective of Tim O’Brien, a fictional character not based on the author, but some are written from other perspectives to provide depth. Tim O’Brien uses perspective and imagery to show the effect of war on soldiers and the guilt from killing they experience in the short stories “The Man I Killed” …show more content…
This endangered the men and exposed them to extensive danger in the field. O’Briens memories from war help him create a true experience for the reader, “Like most of the literature of the Vietnam war, “The Things They Carried” is shaped by the personal combat experiences of the author” (“The Things They Carried” 320). He can make connections through the characters others would not be able to make, revealing true emotion. Readers praise O’Brien for his ability to blend facts with fiction in his war stories. One major motif in the book is the burdens carried by soldiers, O’Brien reveals all the feelings these men experience throughout different periods of the war process. Storytelling continually blurs the difference between invention and reality which allows O’Brien express war through his perspective. “The Man I Killed” describes the physical appearance of a body and gives an imaginary biography, followed by “Ambush” which “gives voice to the authors retrospective guilt” (Calloway 95). These short stories work together to expose the reader to the reality of the Vietnam …show more content…
Both the author and the fictional character, Tim O’Brien, share guilt: guilt from being too cowardly to resist war, killing the enemy, and surviving when many others did not. In “The Man I Killed”, O’Brien is very affected after killing an “innocent” man; when Kiowa tries to talk to him, he does not respond, because he feels so guilty about what he did he doesn’t know what to do. He says, “The man I killed would have continued his education in mathematics”, he leads himself to believe his enemy was not where he wanted to be, and would have been much more successful down a different path (O’Brien 122). But, because of his actions, this man will never be able to experience these things. The author may have experienced a similar feeling of guilt allowing him to expand of the feelings into another character. In “ambush” O’Brien says, “The grenade was to make him go away-just evaporate-and I leaned back and felt my mind go empty”, he acted off of impulse because that was what he was trained to do, but right as he did, he regretted it. After war this guilt does not simply go away, these men still play the incidents over and over in their minds: “Along with symptoms of PTSD, veterans are also often overwhelmed with guilt due to their actions in combat” (Barbour 17). O’Brien will never accept his guilt, but storytelling may help ease his

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