May 25

Extra Credit – The Things They Carried

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.”

Pick two of the four topics to write about and also include a brief assessment of the book. 

300 words minimum for your total response.  Due by Tuesday, May 31st by class.  


Image result for tim o'brien the things they carried pdf

Posted May 25, 2022 by geoffwickersham in category Blogs

21 thoughts on “Extra Credit – The Things They Carried

  1. Nathan Lucken

    I think the title of the book, “The Things They Carried,” was meant to represent the things the soldiers carried during the war, like the smiling buddha, bible, pantyhose, and letters, but also the figurative things they felt such as the guilt and pain, as the question states. Many soldiers carried momentos that meant something to them. They would bring things from home like the New Testament and the letters they received. These things were like good luck charms and like the panyhose, many believed that the momentos would keep them alive. Other things had symbolism, but they were smaller such as a lucky pebble and a thumb from a deceased Vietnamese person. The figurative things were a little different because they did carry them during the war, but they stayed with the soldiers even after. PTSD, guilt, and pain were some of these things. Some soldiers even carried guilt before the war because, similar to Tim, they felt guilt if they didn’t join the war. Some felt such bad PTSD that they resorted to suicide after there service was over. They felt guilt that they survived the war and their fallen comrades did not.

    I completely agree with the statement that during war, the truth is hard to figure out. I think this thought stretches from the individual soldiers, all the way up to the federal government. Citizens never really know why the government engages in a war. I bet that if you asked people now why we got involved in the war in Korea or Vietnam, they wouldn’t know the answer. Similarly, there are different reasons for different people to get involved in the war. On a different note, the soldiers all have different perspectives after the war, and if they tell stories, they really can make things up if they need to. Like Tim O’Brien, stories can be fabricated and people might not have any idea. I really didn’t have an idea that some of these stories were fabricated or only tainted with some truth. But, on ground zero, all stories are surrounded by truth.

  2. Zachary Lezovich

    I will be answering questions one and three. For question one, I think that all soldiers carry around guilt and pain but also have ways of coping so the feelings aren’t devastating. Tim’s way of dealing with the war, guilt, and pain was through writing (As demonstrated through the Novel). This was one of the more healthy ways to cope with thee war because he directly confronted his problem nd faced other fears that he might have faced verses the others who kept sentimental items and didn’t go back to what they previously experienced.
    I think that the soldiers felt lonely one the battle field/ in the war because they didn’t believe for the war, and they were draftered verses voulentiring. Due to the fact they didn’t voulentier it might have contributed to a reason of purpose for fighting the war. I do think that completing the missions and having to face death everyday gave the war a purpose because it kept them active and on their feet as bad as it sounds. It might have also gave them a sort of tunnel visions because they were so focused with the task at hand that they forgot about their surroundings.

    Tying it back to the first question it could have also removed the guilt because the war had a pruspose even if they didn’t believe in the war itself they still had a mission to complete. I think if the soldiers took a step back and realised that they didn’t have a choice it might have also taken weight off of their shoulders and lowered their overall guilt. I think that Tim did a very good job because he also went back and made peace with what he had done and appoliziged. They all could have ran off to Canada but they choose not to which could mean that something in their brain said they wanted to do it, even if they didn’t admit or reconzie this.

  3. Jordyn Jacobs

    Question 4 )In the novel,The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien , the shame or the idea of letting another person down motivates Tim into going into the war. In the chapter, “On the Rainy River”, the main character tells us a story that he was ashamed of, that he hadn’t ever told anyone because of the embarrassment. The story was about how when he got his draft letter for Vietnam, he ran away for about six days. During this time he was trying to figure out if he wanted to escape to Canada, from the war, like all the other “Cowards” who had chosen the easy way out. Although, he had so much of his life already planned out and ahead of him, and the war wasn’t a part of that. He didn’t even believe in what he would be fighting for. He even went to one of the war’s protests. He ends up going to the war though, which he also deemed as cowardice because he was doing it all so that his family wouldn’t be humiliated and his neighborhood woudln’t taunt him and his family over his decision over not going into the war, if he had not. He did not want his family to go through that.

    Question 3) Many soldiers are surrounded by their comrades in arms but don’t feel a connection to each other because war is the loneliest experience. Especially during the Vietnam war, you would bond with your fellow comrades, and the next day they would be shot dead, or you would watch them die. All the many possible ways to die in a war that we heard about in the book, each man had to carry around with them. They happened so fast that it was almost normal. The men carried the bloodshed, horrors, and grief. They had no time to stop and mourn, just push through and keep their heads in the war while keeping their guard up.

    The novel, the Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, in my opinion, was far from just a war story, it was a tale filled with reflection, raw honesty, compassion, and gruesome images to imagine. The author wants us to question the meaning of life, death, and survival, as well, “ are these soldiers acting off of stupidity or grief”, which eggs the reader to read on.

  4. Nina Attisha

    Assessment- I think that the book, The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien is a great book. The book provided a background on the history of the Vietnam war in an intriguing and engaging way. The book opened my eyes to what life was like in the war and what the soldiers went through. I also liked how the book was formatted, there were many small out-of-order stories that all kind of came together in the end and shaped each character.

    1). The soldiers carried many mental and physical things throughout the war. These things were different for each solder. One soldier might carry the grief of a friend while one might carry a yoyo. The things that each soldier carried shaped who they were during the war and what they became after the war. I think that some of the things they carried were the things that also kept them going. Many soldiers brought with them photos of loved ones or even keepsakes that reminded them of home. I think that these were the things that mentally transported them back home in hard times. Some of the carried items also served as good luck charms to keep them safe. Although many of the things they carried kept them grounded, some of the things that they carried pulled them down. For example, at the end of the book, when Obrien was telling the story of what happened to Bowker after the war, we learn that Bowker carried many mental traumas with him. A lot of what he carried was grief and guilt over Kiowas’ death. This baggage eventually drove Bowker to suicide. The things that these soldiers carried could strengthen them and allow them to persevere; however, the mental health consequences of war were a heavy burden for anyone to carry.

    2). The book, The Things They Carried, is made up of many stories during and after the Vietnam War. These stories are often exagerated and tweaked (especially the stories told by Rat Kiley) to make them more interesting. I think that the purpose of telling these fabricated stories is not necessarily to tell the truth of the whole story, but to tell the lesson and the meaning behind telling it. Sometimes an untrue story is shared to strengthen one’s image adn reputation among the other soldiers because a lot of the stories are of camaraderie and brotherhood. Their are also bizarre stories, like Mary Ann’s story who wears a necklace made out of human tongues. I’m not sure if this story was true or maybe it was included to convey how the war can change people. I also think that, just like these half-truth stories, war is also a blur and is at times unclear. The “truth” that people were told for why a war was started is not often the real reason. I also think that in such dire and traumatic times, memory is not always accurate and no one can remember what exactly happened.

  5. Brooke Reynolds

    1. Tim O’Brien uses the term ‘The Things They Carried’ as a double meaning in this book. The very first chapter in this collection of short stories is titled this, and nearly every paragraph within it contains the phrase. O’Brien describes the weapons, knick-knacks, food, and other paraphernalia carried by his fellow soldiers. One man carries a Vietnamese boy’s thumb, one carries a photo of a woman he pines for, yet they all carry one thing in common: the weight of war. In the very first short story, Lieutenant Cross exposes his guilt involving the death of Ted Lavender. He convinces himself that if he had done something different, the man’s death could’ve been avoided. This survivor’s guilt is one of the many aspects of war that Cross and all of the soldiers carried with them.

    4. The Things They Carried follows Tim O’Brien as he and his platoon fight in the Vietnam War. After Tim discovers that he has been drafted for the Vietnam war, he debates on whether to flee or fight. In the story “On the Rainy River”, he is given an opportunity to escape. In the end, Tim is overcome with shame resulting from considering not fighting for his country and he decides to go through with it. This fear of disappointing those around him, combined with the realization that he will not be fulfilling his alleged duty as a man in America, forces Tim into the war.

    The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is a collection of intertwined short stories depicting a platoon of American soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War. Some topics that are dealt with include the effects of war, survivor’s guilt, and the expectation of American men. This book spans before, during, and after the war in Vietnam. Because of this, Tim O’Brien’s fluctuating view of war can be seen throughout this book. Overall, I liked The Things They Carried. I really appreciated the double meaning of the title, and the way this book was split up into short stories was enjoyable. However, there were a few moments it felt like the type of book I would read in an attempt to look smarter, but then I would grow to resent it, eventually forcing myself to finish it in order to add to my Goodreads. Tim O’Brien redeemed himself though, and I would probably give this book a 7/10.

  6. Delphine McLaughlin

    1. I believe the title of the novel “The Things They Carried”, refers to the physical things they carried around with them, along with the mental pain and toughness that is carried with them. They carried things with sentimental value that made them feel more connected to loved ones and their homes and items for survival. Lieutenant Cross carried letters from Martha. Henry Dobbins carried extra rations. Ted Lavender carried tranquilizers. Rat Kiley carried comic books. All of these things added weight to the heavy weapons they were already having to carry. I think an important message is that even though it was an extra thing to carry, the men chose to because it didn’t matter to them. Looking at the mental aspect of what the men carried with them is a big part of the novel as well. One example is how Lieutenant Cross never got over how during Ted Lavender’s death he was busy thinking about Martha. He blamed himself and he never got over it, always carrying that pain with him. These men watched their friends die and had to kill other men. This pain and guilt stuck with them throughout their lives, and they will always remember it.

    4. The idea of shame and letting others down is a big factor for Tim and other soldiers in this novel. Tim almost escaped to Canada when he was drafted, running away from the war. When it came down to it, Tim knew he would be considered a coward if he was to run. He was afraid of what people would think of him and knew he would be ashamed if he didn’t fulfill his duty in Vietnam. So instead of escaping, he chose to go to war. For other soldiers, shame is a big thing as well. Men would rather die on the battlefield like a hero than come home and be considered an embarrassment. People back home expect these men to be willing to die for their country no matter what. This is why they fight and kill and put their lives on the line, so they won’t get shamed when they return home, and so they don’t let anyone down.

    I would rate this book a 7/10. I enjoyed reading it and found it very interesting. I have never read a book that is written this way before, and I ended up liking it.

  7. Talya Rotberg

    I thought that the book The Things They Carried was a really good book and a good look into the lives of soldiers in the Vietnam War. The stories were able to show each hardship and events that each soldier had to endure. In the first part of the book the author listed all of the things that the soldiers physically carried with them during the war. Some were articles of clothing that belonged to loved ones while others were religious elements. The men carried them throughout the war to make them feel safe or give them a sense of hope. Throughout the story we also learn that they not only carried physical things but also carried mental or emotional things. Some carried the burden of pain and guilt after the loss of men they fought with or after the murder of oppposing operations. They had to carry the memories of each hardship during the war. They carried the memories of battles, the loss of their friends, and the burden of having to kill others. Not only did the physical elements that they carried put weight on the soldiers but so did the mental aspects. A lot of soldiers also carried the burden of shame and embarrassment. The idea of letting their fellow soldiers and friends down motivated many of them to participate in many things they would have never done. They killed people so that they wouldn’t have to deal with the embarrassment of being weaker or not having the guts. The reason Tim, as well as many of the other men, went into the war was to escape the embarrassment and shame of not serving their country. Tim couldn’t go back home if he didn’t go to war after he was drafted, it would have been too embarrassing for him. This embarrassment pushed him into a war that he would have never originally gone into and pushed him out of his comfort zone. If it weren’t for the push of embarrassment and the mental burdens the soldiers carried, many of them would not have been in the war at all.

  8. Aidan Taylor

    I think that the emotional items they carried were meant to ease the pain the men had to go through during Vietnam. The men needed something to get them through the horrors of what they had both seen and done there. The reason that some felt guilt and pain afterwards was because the emotional items they carried essentially acted as painkillers that numbed them while they fought. But after a while those numbing agents started to wear off and they realized the atrocities they had experienced and the heinous things they had performed. The men also carried physical items as well, things that helped them survive. Both the emotional and physical items they carried helped them survive but, in two entirely different ways. The emotional items helped them mentally but the physical items helped them live and not die. Neither one is more important than the other, they seemed to both be needed.
    I believe that the soldiers experience loneliness because they feel like they’re in a place they don’t belong. It’s not that they don’t want to fight, it may be that case for some, but most of them feel like they’re performing their duty for their country. And for the topic that they don’t feel connected to one another, I feel that they might not have at first, but the experiences they’ve all encountered together connected them whether they realized it or not. The deaths of their comrades is a good example of this because it brought them together as a whole to mourn the death of that person. War is definitely the most lonely experience. Although they are technically together through fighting and surviving, mentally and spiritually they all probably feel empty and incomplete. This could also be part of the reason why Tim O’brien made up the character of his daughter, because he needed to fill a void within himself.

  9. Nicolette Handler

    3. Soldiers don’t feel a connection to each other because they don’t want to fight. Many of the soldiers in the war did not actually want to fight it, which meant that they weren’t as motivated to win. A good point that O’Brien brought up was that “If you support a war, if you think it’s worth the price, that’s fine, but you have to put your own precious fluids on the line (O’Brien 40). Lots of the people who wanted America to fight the Vietnam war did not actually fight it, which left troops of soldiers that didn’t want to fight so they felt a disconnect from the war and fellow soldiers.
    4. Tim and the other soldiers in the stories were extremely motivated by shame. One of the most prominent examples of this was in the On the Rainy River chapter. The chapter starts with Tim saying, “Even now, I’ll admit, the story makes me squirm. For more than twenty years I’ve had to live with it, feeling the shame, trying to push it away…” (O’Brien 37). Then, it goes into the story of Tim getting drafted to the war, running away, and almost going to Canada. One of the things that kept Tim from deserting and going to Canada, was the shame that came along with it. Tim lived in a small town and imagined his townmates in a cafe with the conversation, “…slowly zeroing in on the young O’Brien kid, how the damned sissy had taken off for Canada” (O’Brien 43). Tim imagining conversations like this motivated him to stay and fight and not go to Canada, and situations like this probably motivated other soldiers to stay and fight.
    Brief assessment: I think that overall it was a good and informative book. It allowed me to learn a lot more about the Vietnam war that I wouldn’t have known, and it also showed me what soldiers in the Vietnam war had to go through.

  10. Sofia Scott

    1.) The book begins by explaining all the things the soldiers carried whether physically or mentally. These things which were ‘humped’ by soldiers sometimes seemed irrelevant. But, the author Tim O’Brien, emphasizes their humanity by mentioning what items they carried in addition to the weapons. In the book, the things each soldier carried help define their personalities and indicate how they remained constant. In both the book and real-life, personal items soldiers carry enabled them to navigate the inconsistency of war more easily. Post-war, almost every veteran carries heavy burdens and emotional damage from the battlefield. In the real world, according to, 30 out of 100 Vietnam veterans are diagnosed with PTSD. These war heroes experience severe trauma in combat and carry the weight of it every day. Millions of American veterans throughout all wars experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Whether diagnosed with PTSD or not, most all veterans experience a form of death that results in the feeling of guilt and pain.
    4.) From the start, O’Brien never expected to go into war. When he was drafted, he had the option of fleeing to Canada and being able to escape the draft or going to war. O’Brien thought he would be seen as cowardly if he did not go to war and found it embarrassing, as well. He once said he was “ashamed to be doing the right thing” as in him going to Canada and not fighting. A lot of soldiers felt this way and sometimes did not know what they were fighting for or believed in it. Not only did shame motivate Tim O’Brien to fight in the war, but it also influenced him and others during combat. Being shamed made soldiers make unnecessary decisions and choices soldiers would not have done otherwise. Shame and guilt is also a feeling no soldier can escape, as described in the novel.

  11. Chloe Alkatib

    The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is about soldiers and their travels through the Vietnam War. It follows soldiers and their time at battle including Jimmy Cross and his love challenges with a girl named Martha, the death of a different character Ted Lavender, and just goes through the things these men carried at war. The men carried things such as pantyhose, religion, and a lot of other things. All of the soldiers know when the others are struggling and they are there to tell. The story goes through the men’s experiences through war and how they get through their struggles and how they stick together. It goes through the things they need at war to survive.

    2. In a novel about truth, you would expect most of the things to speak of truth and not lie about things but in this story and many others, the stories weren’t always true, they just wanted them to be more interesting. Telling a war story also really isn’t the truth. When you’re telling a war story you’re the narrator isn’t really talking about the war… they’re talking about what happened to them in the war and how it affected them. Not all of the stories that are told are true, people often over-exaggerate things about their story whether it’s in war or if it’s in daily life.

    3. After researching and discussing this topic with multiple people… I realized that some of the time, the men that go to war just want to feel stronger and feel like they are powerful to be able to go out and fight in a war. The men that go to war want to feel like heroes. They go into this war even though they don’t want to fight. I think the soldiers feel lonely because they are literally in a war and all they can do is fight. They got themselves into the war and they can’t really get out until it’s over, I think that’s what the “do or die” means in this situation.

  12. Jacob Noorily

    1. A majority of the book went in great detail about the mental effect of the war in Vietnam. It affected each of the soldiers in a different way. Lieutenant Cross feels overwhelming guilt about the death of Ted Lavender. Even with the death of Kiowa, Cross feels ashamed about his error of placing his men in the field. Cross is in heavy denial most of the time (like the time when he felt that if he wasn’t thinking about the girl he liked Ted could have survived), he takes the brunt of the blame and holds himself to high accountability. This is often contradictory as he feels that Kiowa’s death was inevitable. While Cross feels guilt on the battle field, many people feel the effects after. Henry Bowker is the best exemplification of this. He never was able to merge back into society and drove around pointlessly. No matter how much he tried, he couldn’t get over Kiowa’s death. He never talked to his father about the pain he had but rather how he almost got another medal. Eventually, this mental aspect was too much and he killed himself. Mental health was destroyed by the Vietnam War for those who were lucky enough to escape alive.

    3. I think it is because they are disconnected from the world around them. Tim explains that he had a tight bond with many of the soldiers and it was like a mini family as they all relied on each other. He also said that the closer to death, the more alive you felt. I think this loneliness isn’t caused by lack of friendship but how isolated they were from the world. Many left behind promising careers and potential girlfriends to be in a uncivilized place with awful conditions and death lurking around every corner. Being severed from familiar places and put into this awful place would definitely be the source of loneliness.

  13. Priya Andra

    1.) The whole essence of this story is that these young, inexperienced soldiers have emotional burdens that they carry with them during the war. While they may bring physical items that are valuable to them, it’s the emotions that steer their actions and the way they react to certain situations. A truly eye-opening experience for many of the soldiers was Ted Lavender’s death. The morning after Lavender’s death, Lt. Cross burns Martha’s letters. In the beginning, all Cross could think about was Martha, but he later realized that his affection would never be returned and she was an unnecessary distraction. Cross’s reaction to Ted Lavender’s death shows how the horrors of the war can make men hopelessly cynical and gloomy. The soldiers even joke that Ted Lavender’s marijuana is what caused him to not feel pain when he got shot. The experience of Lavender’s death took a toll on every soldier’s mentality. After the war, the men carry even more emotions, guilt being the dominant one. They can neither acknowledge, admit to, or even negotiate the guilt they have obtained. But, they can feel relief since they made it out alive.

    4.) In the case of Tim and many other soldiers, they didn’t really want to fight in a war they didn’t believe in, but they chose to do it because they didn’t want to be known for being a coward. Tim nearly fled to Canada before deciding against it. Shame is what drove Tim and the others to fight. The shame they all felt changed their personalities, led to certain decisions, and stuck with them during the Vietnam war. The war put pressure on the soldiers’ morality and sanity.

    assessment : The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is a wonderful portrayal of the emotional experience of war veterans. Tim’s stories about his own experiences and his friends are able to convey each characters’ personality based on the items they carry. I find the chapter “How To Tell A True War Story” very interesting as it conveys that there is no morality in war. Ultimately, O’Brien shows us that people tend to shy away from extremely tough situations that have no clear solutions, because we desire to be somewhere enjoyable.

  14. Lilia Chung

    1. In the book The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, many of the objects that were listed were not war-related or survival-related. Many of these things were random, things that you wouldn’t expect the soldiers to have with them. Things like chewing gum, weed, and M&Ms were brought with them to fight. These things not only gave the characters more depth but also made the readers realize that even though these men are fighting for our country, they still have lives of their own, that they are currently away from to serve America. Along with these things, Tim O’Brien also accounted for the emotions that they kept with them throughout the time they spent there. Feelings of guilt, terror, and love were also “brought with them” and for most soldiers, followed them home. Although these emotions aren’t physical and can’t actually be brought, they represent a significant part of this book. Including these once again gives the characters more depth, showing that, they have emotions and that being in the war and staying strong all the time isn’t always easy. Unfortunately, many soldiers come home and don’t leave any of these invasive thoughts at camp. Sometimes they can affect their lives so much they can’t take it anymore and end their lives, others will live the rest of their lives suffering from PTSD or vivid visions of their time at war.

    3. Soldiers in America have incredible duties and millions of eyes watching every turnout. During the Vietnam war, many men were drafted for a war they did not want to go to, but many were also drafted/volunteered that would do anything to protect our country. No matter what group you were a part of, war was scary, and all of these men were leaving their homes, families, and lives behind in order to serve our country. With this, loneliness was a major factor. Most of these soldiers weren’t there to make connections with other soldiers, although it may have happened along the way, these men wanted to do their duty and return home to their families.

    If I had to rate this book out of ten I would personally give it a 7.5-8. I really enjoyed this book as well as its concept. I thought that the layout of the book was unique and something I happened seen before. I would’ve liked it more if we read it as a class, similar to what we did with the Jungle, some parts of the book were a little dragged on and I would’ve got the same out of it if I skipped pages. Overall I liked this book and hope that it stays in the curriculum as either an EC read or an in-class assignment. I would recommend it to others as well.

  15. Bailey Mingus :)

    2. Truth certainly is unclear when it comes to war- especially with Vietnam. Soldiers and civilians alike were already either being lied to, misled, or straight up not given any good reason at all for the war. It’s hard to find a clear rationale for some of the things that happen in this book- like the killing of the baby water buffalo, or the death of Ted Lavender. The former was a nonsensical violent act on others, ashowing that even our main characters could become desensitized to killing. The latter was a seemingly random act done to the group we followed, wherein Lavender loses his life by chance- if he had been standing a few feet away, perhaps he could have lived. In either case, these deaths were entirely preventable, and really just go to show the brutal violence that war fosters. From all of this, perhaps it’s difficult to string together a cohesive story. There’s also how to passage of time makes it more difficult to remember details. As O’brien says repeatedly, there is no moral to war. But all good stories have morals- so maybe a true war story wouldn’t even be worth telling.
    4. Tim was a young man with his whole life ahead of him, but he put everything on the line when he went to war- for no other reason than that he would be embarrassed not to. Ideals of manliness and patriotism put pressure on these young men to fight and die for their countries. Much like how there are no morals in stories of war, the Vietnam War itself seemed to have no reason behind it. Despite being against this war that he had no real stake in, Tim fought and killed in it. This speaks to just how powerful the societal pressures put him were.

  16. Natalie Wooldridge

    The Things They Carried is a book made up of multiple stories recollecting Tim O’Brien’s time as a soldier during the Vietnam War. Tim O’Brien reveals the soldiers’ daily lives through chapters which detailed lists of items soldiers carried as well as their emotions and thoughts. The chapters reveal the soldiers as distinct individuals; the weight of the physical items prompts the reader to consider the “weight” or toll of the men’s psychological and emotional “items.” Also, The plot alternates between Lieutenant Cross’ crush on a girl named Martha, a freshman in college, and the death of the soldier Ted Lavender.
    3. I think soldiers feel isolated because war is the loneliest experience. The soldiers drafted into the Vietnam war have to miss out on life. Many were trying to further their education in college, like Tim O’Brien, a Harvard student. Or many left their loved ones, like Lieutenant Cross who left Martha. The point is that the soldiers have a complete 180 turn in their lives. They have to get used to something that most people didn’t. On top of that, they are separated from their families, friends, and homes. All of this contributes to the lonely feeling soldiers got during the Vietnam War.
    2. Tim O’Brien believes that you can not tell a true war story without obscenity and evil. Also, a true war story is complex and filled with love and emotion. His book is true because it is raw and uncut. It is real. He does this when he admits that he never wanted to fight in the war, and even considered fleeing to Canada in the first place. Even though people would shame him for this, he still includes it in his book. Another example, Is in the “How to Tell a True War Story” chapter. Tim O’Brien and the other soldiers shot at a buffalo just to hurt it. The Others dump the almost dead buffalo into a well to kill it. The most unbearable parts about a true war story are always true.

  17. Loghan Smith

    4) In the novel,The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien , the idea of shame is the key to motivating Tim going into battle. Specifically in the chapter titled On The Rainy River the main character explains a secret that he was ashamed of that no one knew about. He kept that story a secret from his peers because he was truly embarrassed of his past. The story was how he ran away for a matter of days after getting a drafting letter for the Vietnam war. His mind was going wild trying to find an escape to Canada so that he didn;t have to participate. He started to place himself in the coward category and constantly tried to compare himself to the other men who took the easy way out of the war. He tried to convince himself that the war simply had no place in his life. Not only was it not in his life plan but he didn’t even believe in what he would be fighting for. Even though he had doubts piled upon doubts, he entered the war regardless. In his mind he was doing it for his family to save them from humiliation. He felt that if he didn’t go his family would be bullied and that was the last thing he wanted for his family.
    3) Even though the soldiers were around each other and their peers every second of everyday and night, there was a lack of connection or bond. Building a bond with someone who could be taken away from you in matter or seconds is not only terrifying but just a horrible vision stuck replaying in your mind. You could have a comrade be your closest friend and the next day at war you could sit and watch them lose their life completely. Every death or even possibility of death, each soldier had to take with them wherever they traveled. Rather if it was to a new base or if it was to go back home. It happened so frequently that the soldiers began to normalize it. None of the men even had time to mourn their newfound friends. There were no funerals or memorials at war, just saying goodbye and moving to the next area. The idea of the soldiers being lonely forever haunts them because everywhere they go they are losing another friend. The people who are killed are lonely and left in their cold bodies. Their family might not even be alerted for days or months to come. The feeling of loneliness and depression override their systems daily. It’s a sad place to be if you’re not in the right mindset.

    In my personal opinion the novel was simply just a tale of war stories. Sort of like a written diary or memorial even. Everything was written raw and uncut with horrid but realistic visualization incorporated through it. The question of “what will the next person carry” keeps the reader going. Because Whether they carry a knife, a gun, or even a secret it’s a hard task to complete.

  18. Mikayla Benavides

    1. I think The Things They Carried is a great representation of how traumatic events can lead someone to hold onto not just physical objects from their experience, but also the emotional and psychological stress that comes with going through things like fighting in a war. People have different ways of holding onto trauma, sometimes it’s not through physical, mental, or emotional ways, but rather just acceptance or denial. Others may hold onto just one thing, like physical mementos, while some may hold onto all three. Though he experienced a lot of trauma through the war, Henry felt the one thing that kept him comfort was his girlfriend’s pantyhose, so he kept them as a form of security and feeling safe — for him it was a physical memento. Lieutenant Cross held guilt and anxiety from when he killed someone in the war, even though it wasn’t really his choice, as the soldiers were forced to kill the other country’s men so their country could win. I think this can be seen through many other soldiers who have fought in today’s world. The PTSD they carry is intense, and whenever they are in a setting where gunshot noises, or loud thuds are heard, some become very anxious. With that being said, I think the novel portrays the psychological stress that the soldiers will carry with them for the rest of their lives extremely well.

    3. I think both of the reasons listed can explain why the soldiers felt so disconnected from one another. When soldiers were drafted for the war, they were forced to leave everything they knew — their families, friends, lovers, school, and life in general. They didn’t want to be there, but they also didn’t want to look cowardly, and embarrass themselves if they revealed they didn’t want to fight for their country. It became a very solo act. Each man wanted to make themself look brave and strong so they wouldn’t be thrown under the bus, and they weren’t really focused on getting to know each other, or befriending anyone. To answer the second question, war is definitely a lonely experience. At the end of the day, you only have yourself, in your body. When someone is shooting at you, you can really only fend for yourself, because if you die, everything is done. Which, in turn, sounds morbid, but it’s true, and that’s why it feels so lonely, because you either die and everything goes away, or you watch someone else die while fending for yourself.

    This book is a really interesting and accurate visual of how the Vietnam War was. I didn’t like it at the beginning, because it didn’t make sense to me and I felt like it was moving in slow motion, but the following chapters really captured me and described the soldiers’ experiences in great detail. I think this was a great read and would definitely recommend reading it again in next year’s APUSH for extra credit or during the Vietnam War unit.

  19. Jake Rosenwasser

    2. The storyteller, especially in war stories, is able to decide what the listener of the story believes based on the way the story is told. Sanders advice to O’Brien is to let the story tell itself and stay out of the way of the story, however Sanders doesn’t even listen to his own advice which is contradicting. Sanders gets involved with the story about the soldiers who are hearing voices and adds comments which are not letting the story tell itself. Sanders contradicting his own advice shows there are often no truths in storytelling, even more so during war stories. A contradiction can also be seen when O’Brien says the story is completely true, but after telling it says it’s difficult to decipher what happened and what seemed to happen. The story about the water Buffalo stays with the listener of the story, while any claims the narrators make about the war don’t really resonate as much. This shows the truth is really a grey area, and it’s more just what the narrator makes you believe, which can be tough sometimes if the narrator is not a reliable source.

    4. The shame of letting other people down is a major theme that motivates Tim and the other soldiers throughout “The Things They Carried”. The soldiers go to war because they don’t want to let down the people around them, and they don’t want society to think of them as cowards. This can be seen when O’Brien considers leaving for Canada when he is chosen for the draft. He decides to go to war not for a patriotic reason, but instead because he is worried what his family and friends will think about him if he leaves. Curt Lemon also has one of his good teeth pulled to feel less shameful about fainting in a past encounter with his dentist, showing how what other soldiers think about him affected his decision making.

    I really enjoyed how this book showed the experiences of different soldiers in the Vietnam War, and highlighted the physical and more importantly emotional burden that the soldiers faced during their time at war. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about how soldiers cope with war.

  20. Brady Glime

    1. Some of the things they carried were largely determined by necessity and lists dozens of items, such as matches, dog tags, mosquito repellant, ammunition, medical supplies, and food. Each soldier also carried personal mementos like Henry Dobbins, one of them carried three pairs of socks and a can of Dr. Scholl’s foot powder. O’Brien said that the soldiers carried immaterial things as well, including an awe for the terrible power of the things they carried and “ghosts” of the men they saw killed. After the war, the psychological burdens the men carry during the war continue to define them. Those who survive carry guilt, grief, and confusion, and many of the stories are about the survivors’ attempts to come to terms with their experience. In “Love,” for example, Jimmy Cross confides in O’Brien that he has never forgiven himself for Ted Lavender’s death. Norman Bowker’s grief and confusion are so strong that they prompt him to drive aimlessly around his hometown lake in “Speaking of Courage,” to write O’Brien a seventeen-page letter explaining how he never felt right after the war in “Notes,” and to hang himself in a YMCA. While Bowker bears his psychological burdens alone, O’Brien shares the things he carries, his war stories, with us. His stories ask us to help carry the burden of the Vietnam War as part of our collective past.

    4.Tim felt ashamed when “I began thinking seriously about Canada. The border lay a few hundred miles north, an eight-hour drive. Both my conscience and my instincts were telling me to make a break for it, just take off and run like hell and never stop. In the beginning the idea seemed purely abstract, the word Canada printing itself out in my head;but after a time I could see particular shapes and images, the sorry details of my own future” (O’Brien 28). This shows that O’Brien was highly considering fleeing to Canada to avoid the war, but ended up not doing it because he thought that it would let down his family as well as all Americans.

  21. Alexis Heller

    This book was very different from books I would normally read, however, I thought it was a really good book. I liked how the book followed different characters and told their stories. It didn’t sugar coat the war and gave a clear image of how the war was for different people. The very first chapter of the book explained all the things that the soldiers carried with them in war both physically and emotionally. Many of the soldiers carry things to remind them of people in their lives that they care about. Henry Dobbins carries his girlfriend’s pantyhose, Jimmy Cross carries Martha’s letters, and Norman Bowker carries the thumb of a Viet Cong soldier. While they carry these physical objects they also carry the emotional baggage that comes with them. Henry carries his love for his girlfriend, Jimmy carries his love for Martha along with the knowledge that she feels no love for him, and Norman carries the death of the Viet Cong soldier. As the book and war go on the things that the soldiers carry change from witnessing deaths of friends, killing enemies, and change in relationships back at home. Rat Kiley witnesses his friend die from a trap while they were messing around with a smoke bomb. He carries his friend’s death with him through the war and later that day shoots a buffalo multiple times without killing it. This shows how much pain he feels from losing his closest friend. The soldiers start the book carrying physical things and as the book goes on they begin carrying new things both physical and emotional. There are many stereotypes shown through how men should act during this time period. Many don’t want to go to war, but feel forced to go to war because they don’t want to let their friends, family, and nation down. At one point, Tim faces a fight within himself between going to Canada to escape the war or going to the war. He ends up deciding to go to war because he’s ashamed of what other people will think of him. Many men also feel reluctant to kill people or be violent during the war. Men that go to war are young and feel pressure to fit into the standards that are created for them at the time.

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