As someone not overly tolerant of military conflict, in light of the divisive war in Iraq and considering the unpopular nature of the Vietnam War in U.S. society; I decided to choose Tim OÆBrienÆs account of combat in Vietnam in ôThe Things They Carried.ö I found outside commentary on this story by searching for reviews and analyses of the work on EBSCO Host, the university research database. I also surveyed the commentaries in The Story and Its Writer to add substance to my own analysis of the story. The most useful sources were the more scholarly ones that came from EBSCO host in journals like Critique and the Explicator.
Tim OÆBrienÆs ôThe Things They Carriedö is an account of OÆBrienÆs drafting into the Vietnam war and the subsequent disillusionment of typical values associated with war (honor, heroism, courage, etc.) OÆBrien endures. In this work, OÆBrien demonstrates that there were few things that could be ôcarriedö by troops that were reminders of normalcy and home. As he tells us, ôThe things they carried were largely determined by necessity,ö (OÆBrien, p. 1103). The book demonstrates that in combat normalcy is seldom the norm and the only thing that keeps some individuals from going insane are reminders of normalcy in the most unexpected ways and places.
The commentary of Bobbie Ann Mason (p. 1531) includes her admission that OÆBrienÆs account of combat in Vietnam ôknocked me down, just as if a hundred-pound rucksack had been thrown right at me.ö This commentary does an excellent job of showing the symbolism and meaning behind the things the soldiers ôcarryö in combat. For they carry necessities like food, water and ammunition but they also carry the horrific memories of combat and the pain of loss and isolation from home. At times, they also carry their dead brethren.
We see in OÆBrienÆs story that some of the men can only maintain and cope if