"The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien

Essay by chris22000College, UndergraduateA, November 2006

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"The Things They Carried" is a compelling and powerful essay that examines the emotions and burdens that the soldiers carried with them as they fought for survival during a time of extreme conflict and anguish. Throughout the novel O'Brien introduces the reader to the different men in his company, and the items that they carried with them. As O'Brien describes each item, we learn about their owner and the fears and emotions that they carry. And by the end of the novel, the reader has an understanding of the true weight that these men carried within them as they fought for their lives and for those items and things that they carried.

A Look into the Items That They Carried

"The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near-necessities were p-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, C rations, and two or three canteens of water."

The items described above are just some of the many objects mentioned in the essay, "the things they carried". However, the author, Tim O'Brien, does much more then just list off the items that were used. O'Brien uses the items as a tool to describe the feelings of love and loss that the soldiers experienced. With each object that O'Brien describes, we the reader is able to gain a clearer view into what life was like for those who fought and died in the Vietnam conflict. And by the end of the essay, the reader comes to discover that the items these soldiers carried were far more then just items; they were metaphors of the emotions and burdens that these men carried in their hearts.

What makes this essay so powerful is a combination of different elements.