The Things They Carried
by Tim O'Brien
The Things They Carried Literature and Writing Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Story Title.Paragraph)
What stories can do, I guess, is make things present. I can look at things I never looked at. (Good Form.9-10)
One of the ways that stories help O'Brien process his memories is by making them present. He might be using the word "present" to mean that it makes the memories stay with him, it makes them here, or he might be using it to say that it brings memories into the present (right now) and away from the past. It might mean both. The point is, with stories, he can examine things that he didn't have the nerve to examine the first time around.
But this too is true: stories can save us […] in a story, which is a kind of dreaming, the dead sometimes smile and sit up and return to the world. (The Lives of the Dead.1)
O'Brien uses stories to bring the dead back to life. Everyone he's written about – Kiowa, Linda, Curt Lemon, Norman Bowker, the young man on the trail – all of them come back to life while he tells the story. Not only that, they will live forever on the page.
To listen to the story, especially as Rat told it, you'd never know that Curt Lemon was dead. He was still out there… But he was dead. (The Lives of the Dead.95)
Stories don't just bring people back to life as a way of preserving their memory. The act of Rat telling a story brings Curt Lemon back, if only for a little while. Those listening to the story feel like Curt Lemon is alive again, and remember: in this book, what something feels like is more true than the scientific truth of what happened.