“The Things They Carried“ by Tim O’Brien: Discuss and Analysis Essay

“The Things They Carried“ by Tim O’Brien: Discuss and Analysis Essay
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In any war, the soldiers get paranoid; they are dispossessed of the sense of justice and morality, once they are part of the war. The solider will never be the same individual again, having seen action in a war. It is a terrible evil exercise for humanity and the victor is also the loser! Political leaders plan the war but the soldiers fight it out. When one soldier gets killed, the immediate family members suffer, the well-wishers go through an agonizing experience and the nation mourns. The soldiers have no personal enmity and yet they are compelled to plan to eliminate each other. The only mantra for a soldier is, kill or get a killer! Tim O’Brien, in his book The Things They Carried, draws a picture of the warfront that explains the tragic events that are created and executed by the human mind and how helpless are the soldiers in their inner world, though they are compelled to put up a brave front and how war alters their identity, emotional state and view of life.

How War Alters a Persons Identity, Emotional State and View of Life While in Battle

Each day is a tough option for the soldier and his survival and no one at home is able to understand his predicaments. Tim illustrates the story of a soldier who brings his girlfriend to Vietnam. On arrival, she is fresh and exuberant about the country that she is going to visit. Soon, the jungle life fascinates her; she loses attachment to her old city life. She disappears into the jungle. Tim explains this incident thus: “Tone? I didn’t know it was all that complicated. The girl joined the zoo. One more animal-end of story.” (O’Brien, p.107)Tim recalls a moment, how he kills a soldier who is walking down a trial. Tim throws a hand grenade at him and his face explodes. He also narrates about the image of a young girl dancing outside her destroyed village, as American soldiers take the dead family members away. An individual cries when he is sad; one does not cry when one is mad! Many such stories circulate and the author writes “Its safe to say that in a true war story nothing is ever absolutely true.” (O’Brien, p. 82) One story is more horrible than the other.

How War Alters a Person if He Physically Survives the War and Comes Home

When the soldier returns from war, he carries a big, complicated psychological burden with him. People are not willing to listen to him, they do not take his life and adventures in Vietnam seriously, and his explanations about the war are like yet another newspaper report. Tim explains the psychic condition of a soldier thus: “If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie.”(O’Brien, p.68) The life of the soldier who has returned from the war is full of anxieties, thinking about the unfortunate events in the warfront.

The Author’s Insight About the Phenomenon of War Depicted Through the Characters

Tim O’Brien mentions how he watches a man who gets blown up by a mine. What remains in the spirit of a man when one gets hardened by anger, grief and injustice simultaneously? The pressure on the mind is too much to bear and it is difficult to maintain sanity. Facing such grim circumstances he writes, “My conscience told me to run, but some irrational and powerful force was resisting, like a weight pushing me toward the war. What it came down to, stupidly, was a sense of shame.” (O’Brien, p. 52) War is war! These are real-life scenes, not the ones created artificially in a stunt movie.


Tim O’Brien received the 1979 National Book Award. He was the Pulitzer Finalist for The Things They Carried. This book was also hailed as the book of the century by New York Times. He also received the award for lifetime achievement in military writing in 2013.In this book, Tim O’Brien’s observations are derived from his hard-boiled experience of the Vietnam War. They are realistic and merit acceptance. The only objective of a solider during the war is to kill the enemy and this purpose drives the soldiers crazy. Their actions are beyond the perimeter of morality and immorality. War is the link between the past and the future. All major powers of the world are aware what world war means today. Major war today means the war of push buttons and the world will be reduced to heaps of burning charcoal, within a matter of minutes and there won’t be O’Brien’s to report the stories of war! When the war within the mind of an individual ends, war-fronts will be converted into rose gardens. As for the soldier and his family, the life will never be the same again after undergoing the tragic war experiences.

Work Cited:
O’Brien, Tim: The Things They Carried. Broadway; New York; 1998; Print