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The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried

by Tim O'Brien

The Things They Carried Analysis

Literary Devices in The Things They Carried

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

We first learn about the sewage field in "Speaking of Courage," when Norman Bowker can't stop driving around a lake while he thinks about what happened to Kiowa. Kiowa, the most moral character in...

Setting

Because O'Brien starts with the war, we'll start there, too. First, some basic history:If you don't know already, the Vietnam War was a Cold War conflict that began for obscure reasons. Technical...

Narrator Point of View

O'Brien switches back and forth between narrative voices, making the question about what's real and what isn't even more confusing. You start the book with "The Things They Carried," and you think...

Genre

Obviously, this is a war drama. It's more complicated than a simple war adventure, though. Because O'Brien finds the truth of the Vietnam War too complex to express through a straightforward reco...

Tone

While O'Brien's tone in regards to the war jumps around from emotional to clinical to manipulative to epic, his tone in regards to storytelling and the truth is constant: he is absolutely familiar...

Writing Style

O'Brien alternates between the grandiose and the conversational for effect. For example, in "The Things They Carried," we have this sentence: They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they car...

What's Up With the Title?

Shall we start with the lazy answer? You got it: "The Things They Carried" is the title of the first short story in the book, and therefore O'Brien chose it as the title of that book. Done.As we'r...

What's Up With the Epigraph?

"This book is essentially different from any other that has been published concerning the 'late war' or any of its incidents. Those who have had any such experience as the author will see its trut...

What's Up With the Ending?

OK, so, the first story, "The Things They Carried," is definitely about the war. It tells us about all the things that soldiers carry. (See "What's Up with the Title?" for more on this.) The boo...

Tough-o-Meter

The language in The Things They Carried is not difficult to read. The vocabulary isn't simple, but it is modern, and the writing flows beautifully. The characters' dialogue carries the reader alo...

Plot Analysis

The Things They Carried doesn't really follow the classical narrative structure or the structure. While we do get exposition at the very beginning of the story in "The Things They Carried," when w...

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

In "On the Rainy River," Tim is drafted to go to Vietnam.Before he's drafted, Tim has a totally abstract view of politics. He knows that he doesn't like the war, but for political reasons, not bec...

Trivia

So right after he published The Things They Carried (in which O'Brien told us that he'd gone back to Vietnam, which wasn't true), O'Brien actually did go back to Vietnam. Then, in 1994, he publish...

Steaminess Rating

There's no actual sex in this book, and the men don't even talk about it in very explicit terms. While Jimmy Cross does fantasize about tying Martha to his bed, it's not really in a super-sexual w...

Allusions

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (On the Rainy River.64)Tim O'Brien, If I Die in a Combat Zone (On the Rainy River.64)Tim O'Brien, Going after Cacciato (How to Tell a True War S...

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