Tim O’Brien’s book, The Things They Carried, focuses on the members of Alpha Company as they hump across Vietnam and also how they dealt with civilian life (“Speaking of Courage”).
1. The things that the soldiers carried in battle were not just physical things but mental / emotional as well. Henry Dobbins wore his girlfriend’s pantyhose around his neck as a comforter. But after the war is over and done with, the soldiers, like Lt. Cross, carry guilt and pain around with them.
2. The novel is also about truth, especially with the story, “How to Tell a True War Story,” which seems contradictory in many cases. But maybe that’s what the truth really is in a war-time environment – unclear.
3. The novel also captures loneliness and isolation experienced by the American soldiers while in the Vietnamese jungle. Though the soldiers are surrounded by their comrades in arms, many don’t feel a connection to each other. Could this be because they’ve been drafted into a war they don’t want to fight? Or that war is the most loneliest experience – do or die on the battlefield?
4. How does shame or the idea of letting another person down motivate Tim and other soldiers in the stories?
“They carried the soldier’s greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing. Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to. It was what had brought them to the war in the first place, nothing positive, no dreams of glory or honor, just to avoid the blush of dishonor. They died so as not to die of embarrassment.”