The Things They Carried, by Tim O’ Brien provides a fascinating account of the Vietnam War and the soldiers who participated in it. Author, in this work, was pouring out his feelings and thoughts about the way in which he was involve. He, being a soldier, explains the dilemmas he encountered when he was deployed in the war. He came out with a two-sided opinion about the War. The book is, of course, is a detailed and genuine account unlike the remarks of some critics that its language, style and structure are confusing and less true. The book introduces two groups of Americans; those who wholeheartedly entered the battle field and those who feared being in the battle field. The former group willingly participated in the war, proudly defending their country. The latter ones, however, thought of other alternatives and reluctantly participated as they feared public opinion and disgrace to their family name.
Tim did not like the war though he was not completely unwilling to participate. Being in Vietnam he came across lots of new things and had several friends also. He introduces an ‘old poppa-san’ who led them to the mine fields. Author explains his tales as ‘not bloody stories, necessarily ‘Happy stories, too, and even a few peace stories’. His happy stories reveal that he was not against the Vietnam War. He however also gave a true account about the other side of the War that says that the war was a mistake. He explained the painful experiences of being in the midst of the dead bodies of his friends. Life in Vietnam was boring and painful in that respect. He says that “the American war in Vietnam seemed to me wrong. Certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons. America was divided on these and a thousand other issues.” The author was not of the opinion that the war wasn’t wrong; by the way he did not justify it also. The opinions of the author were of course two-sided, but it was never confusing.
The Things They Carried is interesting to read though it is a sad story. It is a useful book for history lovers and anybody who enjoy thrillers and tragedy stories. It is the explanation about the military equipment (guns, ammunition etc) carried by ground soldiers during the Vietnam War. Author explains each and every equipments; their specifications and uses. Author focuses on the squad led by First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross and explain each and every soldier’s challenges and the military equipment they handled. Apart from the tangible possessions of the soldiers, author looks into the valuable intangibles they carried; their love, memory, fellowships, fear and emotions. The touching explanation of the painful experiences of the characters is strong enough to wet anybody’s eyes. For example, in the closing of the story, Ted Lavender (belonging to Jimmy Cross’s squad) wandered through the lonely forest (this was against the order) and was found shot dead. Jimmy Cross was extremely sad to hear the death of Lavender’s death and thought that he himself accounted for it. The Things They Carried is not unreal but genuine as it a collection of autobiographical stories of someone who was the part of the whole show.
It can be inferred from a certain part of the author’s explanation that the war changed the people negatively as they encountered stressful situations. Soldiers lost everything and returned home feeling empty. They became indifferent, encountered lots of problems and even had trouble in reintegrating into the society. Author testifies that he also exhibited strange behavior and became cold and cruel about things. He had witnessed several of his friends perishing and had the whole horror scene clearly in his scene. Author succeeded in making the reader’s heart melt. However few other accounts by the author justified the entire war decisions. His attitude sometimes proclaimed that Vietnam War was inevitable and it was for a good cause though there was a heavy loss. The stories explained by the author is truthful, no doubt, though it was little beautified to help readers comprehend the complexities of the war. The account is original to the core (unlike the comments of the critics) as he says that “Often the crazy stuff is true and the normal stuff isn’t, because the normal stuff is necessary to make you believe the truly incredible craziness…In other cases you can’t even tell a true war story. Sometimes it’s just beyond telling” (O’Brien 71).
O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. Broadway Books: New York, 1998.