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The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried

by Tim O'Brien

Friendship Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

They shared the weight of memory.  They took up what others could no longer bear.  Often, they carried each other, the wounded or weak. (The Things They Carried.39)

Right here at the beginning of the book, we see that the brotherhood among the men is shared by all.  Not only are they almost always referred to collectively rather than individually in this chapter (as "they" instead of by their names), they carry each other, emotionally (sharing "the weight of memory") and occasionally physically. 

Quote #2

Rat pours his heart out.  He says he loved the guy.  He says the guy was his best friend in the world.  They were like soul mates, he said, like twins or something, they had a whole lot in common. (How to Tell a True War Story.5)

According to Jonathan Shay in Achilles in Vietnam, one of the more unexpected problems that men face in war is that they tend to form incredibly close bonds with other men. But because of the anti-emotional machismo expected of soldiers, it's hard for them to explain how important those friendships are to people back home.  Rat's trying like crazy, here – he says that he and Lemon were soul mates, that he loved him, and then finishes, lamely, by saying that the two had a lot in common.  Um, right.  Unfortunately, Lemon's sister doesn't get how important Curt was to Rat, and doesn't even write back.

Quote #3

The whole platoon stood watching [Rat shoot the baby water buffalo], feeling all kinds of things, but there wasn't a great deal of pity for the baby water buffalo. Curt Lemon was dead. Rat Kiley had lost his best friend in the world. Later in the week he would write to the guy's sister, who would not write back, but for now it was a question of pain. [Rat] shot off the [water buffalo's] tail.  He shot away chunks of meat below the ribs. (How to Tell a True War Story.72)

The consequence of one soldier forming a close bond with another, Shay says, is that one of the two might die.  If that happens, that death can trigger a berserker phase in the remaining soldier.  Berserker phases have a lot in common with what Rat is doing now: wanton, senseless killing.

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