"The Things They Carried," by Tim O'Brien

Essay by speed20foreverCollege, UndergraduateA+, February 2003

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In his book "The Things They Carried," Tim O'Brien describes a group of soldiers marching through Vietnam. He does this by describing the items that each of them carries with him during the march. The things that the soldiers carry with them are both tangible and intangible items and what these things are depends upon the individual soldier. They carry the basic necessities for survival and the bare minimum to make life as livable as possible. They also carry memories and fears. The weight of these abstract items is as real as that of any physical ones, and unlike those physical objects, they are not so easily cast away.

Throughout the story, O'Brien alternates between narrative passages and simple descriptions of the items that the soldiers are carrying. This fragmentation brings focus to the things the men are carrying, both tangible and intangible, without downplaying the narration.

In the descriptive segments of the story, O'Brien is very exact in his descriptions: "As a first lieutenant and platoon leader, Jimmy Cross carried a compass, maps, code books, binoculars, and a .45 caliber pistol that weighed 2.9 pounds full loaded." O'Brien gives only a straightforward descriptions in these segments and the writing is void of any feeling or sentiment. When describing the intangible things, the writing is a lot more in tune with the emotions of the characters: "Jimmy Cross humped his love for Martha up the hills and through the swamps.. Lieutenant Cross remembered touching her left knee. A dark theater, he remembered, .. when he touched her knee, she turned and looked at him in a sad, sober way that made him pull his hand back, but he would always remember." O'Brien's writing takes on more sentimentality in these sections and adds a great...