The Things They Carried Chapter Summaries
This book, written by Tim O’Brien, gives an account of the things that took place during the Vietnam War, where he was part of the soldiers. Here is a complete summary of what happens in each of the 22 stories of this novel:
Chapter 1 Summary “The Things They Carried”
Here, the reader is introduced to the narrator in the story, Tim O’Brien and the leader of the platoon they were in Jimmy Cross. The story tells the reader the items that the soldiers carried to the war. The items include the physical war items such as guns and the personal items such as the pebble that Jimmy Cross carried. There is also a mention of the girl Jimmy loved called Martha. It is her that gave him the people he carried to the war front. The author says that the soldiers were not prepared for this war.
Chapter 2 Summary “Love”
In this story, Jimmy Cross pays a visit to Tim. This is after the end of the war. As they take in, there is a mention of Martha, a girl that Cross still loves. Jimmy talks about their reunion with Martha after the war. This happened at a college. It is here that Jimmy requests Tim to write a story on him. Tim writes a story that heaps praises on Jimmy with the hope that Martha can one day read it and come back to Jimmy.
Chapter 3 Summary “Spin”
This is a recount of the bad things that happened during that war. Through Mitchell Sanders, the readers come to know that many dead bodies were as a result of the war. Some of these bodies were burnt beyond recognition.
Chapter 4 Summary “On the Rainy River”
This is a story of how Tom O’Brien ended up in the platoon. It is said there is a time he wanted to escape. However, he decides to join the army to avoid embarrassing his family. He decided to not to quit at a lodge owned by Elroy Berdahl.
Chapter 5 Summary “Enemies”
In the story, there is an account of how Lee Strunk fought with Dave Jensen because of a jackknife that was stolen earlier. Dave breaks Lee’s nose in the process. The enmity between them only ends after Dave hits himself with a pistol and breaks the nose.
Chapter 6 Summary “Friends”
Lee and Dave become great friends after the fight. They even agree that one should kill the other if any of them is seriously harmed in an ambush. It is Lee that gets a broken leg in an attack. However, he begs Dave not to kill him. However, he finally dies in the medical chopper to Dave’s relief.
Chapter 7 Summary “How to Tell a True War Story”
Here, the author writes about his opinion on war and how most war stories are not true. The author talks of the death of Curt Lemon and how Rat Kiley reacted to it.
Chapter 8 Summary “The Dentist”
The writer gives a eulogy of Curt Lemon. He is described as someone that loved combat situations. However, he feared the dentist. The author never loved him because of his love for war and use of dangerous antics
Chapter 9 Summary “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”
This is a story told to the author by Rat Kiley. It is a story of Mark Fossie who came with his girlfriend to the war. With time, the girlfriend learns and falls in love with the war situation. This causes their break-up.
Chapter 10 Summary “Stockings”
It is a story of Dobbins who used to wrap his girlfriend’s stockings around his neck during the war. Dobbins soon convinces the others that it is magic as he used to survive dangerous shootings. They break up with the girlfriend, but he continues using the stocking.
Chapter 11 Summary “Church”
Here, the platoon uses a church as their base. However, they soon leave because they feel it is not right to use the church for that purpose. Dobbins wants to be a monk in the future.
Chapter 12 Summary “The Man I Killed”
A recount of the man O’Brien killed. O’Brien feels guilty but blames it on the gun. Kiowa tries to console O’Brien.
Chapter 13 Summary “Ambush”
When Kathleen, O’Brien’s daughter inquires if he killed anyone, he lies that he did not. When Kathleen is an adult, he tells the truth.
Chapter 14 Summary “Style”
There is a Vietnamese girl of keeps dancing though she has lost her family. After the soldiers leave, Azar tries to mimic this dance. Dobbins warns him against it.
Chapter 15 Summary “Speaking of Courage”
This is a story of Norman Bowker after the war. He remembers how Kiowa died daily. Norman feels bad to be could not save Kiowa and feels lonely at the moment.
Chapter 16 Summary “Notes”
O’Brien writes a story about Norman. Though he is not proud of Norman because of the Kiowa story, he says nice things about him. Knowing that the story about him is a lie, Norman is not impressed.
Chapter 17 Summary “In the Field”
The platoon tries to recover the body of Kiowa. O’Brien and Jimmy both feel guilty about Kiowa’s death. The dead Kiowa is eventually pulled out.
Chapter 18 Summary “Good Form”
Here, the author writes about the war stores and how some of them are twisted. He opines that different things can be said about the same story and still taken to be the truth.
Chapter 19 Summary “Field Trip”
This is a visit that O’Brien had with his daughter to Vietnam. They visit the site where Kiowa was killed. During the visit, they had a translator.
Chapter 20 Summary “The Ghost Soldiers”
O’Brien gives a narration of the bullets that were shot at him during the war. While the first was successfully treated, the second almost kills him because the physician cannot keep calm in the middle of the gunshots.
Chapter 21 Summary “Night Life”
The story recounts how the Rat shot himself to avoid being in the war. When the others are attacked at night, he is not affected because he is carried by the chopper. Jimmy says the shooting was an accident.
Chapter 22 Summary “The Lives of the Dead”
The author gives a comparison of the experience he had in the war in Vietnam and the death of the sweetheart he had in childhood. Linda had succumbed to a brain tumor. It was the first dead body O’Brien ever viewed.