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    Our goal here is to investigate the first fourteen chapters of The Things They Carried. […]
  • The Effects of War on the Morals of Soldiers By: Emma Coburn and Jilian Ramos
    The theme of Morality in The Things They Carried, is portrayed in the chapters “Ambush”, “On the Rainy River”, and in “The Things They Carried”, as the soldiers are put into situations where their decisions to do what is morally right is easily compromised by fear and the pressure to conform to societal expectations. Morality in “On the Rainy River”, displays itself when Tim is trying to decide whether he wants to stay in his hometown and be drafted, which was what his family, friends and country expected of him, or to escape to Canada in order to stand up for what he knew to be morally right. Tim did not agree with what the United States was fighting for, and felt that he would be compromising his own beliefs if he were drafted to fight. The idea of leaving behind everything that he knew scared him and kept him from being able to go through with his escape. In the end, becoming a social outcast scared him more than defying his own morals. In “Ambush”, Tim describes the time where he killed a Vietnamese soldier who had unknowingly walked by the encampment that Tim and his patrol were staying for the night. Tim killed the man out of fear, even though he posed no threat to Tim’s or […]
  • The Effects of Death and Traumatic Experiences on Human Behavior by Revati Athavale and Sabrina Robinette
    The theme of death in The Things They Carried is illustrated in the chapters “The Things They Carried,” “The Man I Killed, ” and “Style” in order to show that death has the potential to traumatize an individual, causing them to act in a way in which they normally would not. In “The Things They Carried,” Ted Lavender’s death causes Cross, who believes that his love for Martha is the reason for Lavender’s death, to burn his photographs and letters from Martha. Cross forsakes his love for and attachment towards Martha—something he never would have done if it weren’t for Lavender’s death. Death not only causes Jimmy Cross to behave in a manner in which he normally would not, but it also alters the behavior of the narrator, Tim O’Brien, due to trauma, as demonstrated by “The Man I Killed.” In this chapter, Tim is faced with the horrific fact that he has killed a man, and, despite being a soldier, he is still distraught over the unknown Vietnamese man’s death. This results in the formation of a traumatic memory, and Tim’s inability to comprehend what has just happened results in Tim’s inability to properly respond to Kiowa; instead, he continues to stare at the corpse, attempting to […]
  • 3b. Braya and Ava
    The chapters “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”, “On the Rainy River”, and “The Man I Killed” all exemplify the theme of loss of innocence because each chapter provides a character who engages in a life changing experience, resulting in their loss of innocence. In “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong” Mary Anne undergoes a mental and physical transition: “A different person, it seemed, and he wasn’t sure what to make of it…The way she quickly fell into the habits of the bush. No cosmetics, no fingernail filling. She stopped wearing jewelry, cut her hair short and wrapped it in a dark green bandana” (O’brien 94). This quote further explains how her own boyfriend was unable to recognize the known Mary Anne. Before he brought her to Vietnam she was considered a sweet, loving girl, but after being present at Vietnam she lost her innocence because she metaphorically became Vietnam. In the second chapter, “On the Rainy River”, Tim loses his innocence when he receives his draft letter: “The emotions went from outrage to terror to bewilderment to guilt to sorrow and then back again to outrage. I felt a sickness inside me. Real disease. Most of this I’ve told before, or at least hinted […]
  • Theme of Death and Its Effects by Anjana Ramesh and Halley Saucier
    In the novel, O’Brien constantly illustrates the theme of death through the stories of different soldiers. These stories emphasize the drastic changes that occur within a soldier that can alter their personalities, morality, and their memory permanently. For instance, in the first chapter, “The Things They Carried”, Lieutenant Cross burns a village, burns Martha’s photographs, and changes his behavior to cope with the guilt of Ted Lavender’s death. He exclaims that “it was very sad… the things men carried inside. The things men did or felt they had to do” (O’Brien 14). Inside of him, Cross carried the guilt of the death of Lavender, and the only way to cope with that was to become strict and disciplined from then on. Burning the photographs was initially the act of burning his past, where he and Martha were together and where Lavender was still alive. When Martha moved on and Lavender died, Cross had to cover up his remorse and guilt by acting the complete opposite of how he felt, bottling the weight of shame inside of him. Thus, in this chapter, O’Brien aims to show what a death of a comrade can do to a soldier: it can change their behaviour and character. Moreover, in the next […]

34 thoughts on “Full Write Ups”

  1. O’Brien conveys the theme of gender roles in “The The Things They Carried” by demonstrating the expectations that men have for women to show femininity, the motivational aspects of women and their objects and the expectations that society holds for soldiers and their masculinity.

  2. O’Brien describes the true conditions of war in The Things They Carried through his portrayal of heightened emotions in soldiers, showing experiences where nothing is proven to be true, and by demonstrating how war invades one’s psyche and actively warps the individual’s beliefs.

  3. O’Brien states that courage in war is when you are faced with a decision where you can either compromise your morals to coincide with societal expectations or follow what you know to be ethically right.

  4. Throughout his novel, “The Things They Carried”, O’Brien portrays the loss of innocence through various characters along with vignettes and literary devices that demonstrate how war inevitably strips an individual of their purity and innocence.

    1. In addition to Simmi’s comment, O’Brien uses imagery to convey the loss of innocence that the soldiers endure. O’Brien states, “Twenty years later, I can still see the sunlight on Lemon’s face. I can see him turning, looking back at Rat Kiley, then he laughed and took that curious half step from shade into sunlight, his face suddenly brown and shining, and when his foot touched down, in that instant, he must’ve thought it was the sunlight that was killing him” (80). The vivid imagery of this scene helps the reader to understand the transition from boy to soldier. Figuratively, when Lemon steps into the light, he transitions from a playful young man who had previously joked around with Rat Kiley to a soldier that suffered the effects of war. The morbid ending for Lemon portrays the stark contrast between the bliss of innocence and the corruption of warfare. As you had previously stated, this demonstrates how war strips an individual of their purity and innocence.

  5. O’Brien draws comparisons between soldiers and civilians through displaying the moral conflicts draftees face, describing the various mindsets that soldiers use to approach the war, and illustrating the symbolic infatuation that a soldier has for a civilian.

  6. In his novel, O’Brien develops the theme of death through the atomization and effacement of soldiers, showing its devastating effects on people and their meaningless methods to cope with it, ultimately confirming that death is unfathomable.

  7. O’Brien illustrates the effect of masculinity on soldiers by depicting the shame surrounding weakness or emotion and the obligation to accept their role in the war as a patriotic duty.

  8. Atomization in the things they carried can be found in many places both figuratively and literally, the things they carried, the man I killed, and how to tell a true war story provide prime examples of atomization in O’Brien’s novel.

    1. **edit The atomization of soldiers is portrayed through the effacement of Ted Lavender, the obliteration and mourning of Curt Lemon, and the death of the young soldier by the hands of Tim.

  9. O’Brien illustrates the theme of the fracturing of one’s themis by showing the traumatic effects that war has on soldiers; specifically, their experiences in war go against their moral truths, damaging and haunting them permanently even after war is over.

  10. The theme of loss of innocence is portrayed in The Things They Carried through the evolution of Mary Anne Bell’s character, the ignorance of Azar’s actions, and the Viet Cong soldier that Tim killed.

  11. In his novel, O’Brien argues that making moral decisions often takes great courage as one’s morality is easily challenged in the face of fear.

  12. The theme of identity is communicated in the chapters: “The Man I Killed”, “On the Rainy River”,and “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”, by demonstrating that someone’s traumatic experience can take over their identity; identity can be changed by people, things, or society; lastly one can experience a loss of identity.

  13. O’Brien conveys the theme of morality through the shifting of one’s morals due to their experiences in war and their related personal and societal conflicts.

  14. O’Brien conveys the theme of a loss of innocence as many of the soldiers’ traumatic and unpredictable experiences during war causes a fracture in their morals and purity through death and other events, forcing them to accept a harsh reality that corrupts them forever.

  15. Throughout the novel, O’Brien utilizes gender roles and their associated characteristics to establish the value of women to the soldiers as well as man’s desire to prove his masculinity.

  16. O’Brien portrays loss of innocence in The Things They Carried by showing the contrast between immaturity and warfare, the drastic changes in the behavior of characters who witness death, and the ultimate acceptance of responsibility in order to communicate the mentally irreversible effects of war.

  17. O’Brien illustrates the fact that, because of its savage nature, war reveals one’s true identity by breaking any preconceived notions of the self.

  18. Death in The Things They Carried is demonstrated to be strongly linked to trauma, the fracturing of themis, and the inability for soldiers to describe the events they have witnessed to others.

  19. In The Things They Carried the theme of superstition through Cross’s Pebble, to Dobbins Stocking, and Kiowas faithfulness.

  20. Tim O’Brien develops the theme of the effects of war in The Things They Carried through his use of the concept of “humping” in “The Things They Carried”, the changes Mary Anne undergoes in “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”, and his references to traumatic memory and the shrinkage of the moral horizon in “Ambush”.

  21. In The Things they Carried O’Brien demonstrates the theme of superstition and faith through Jim Cross’s pebble, to Henry Dobbins girlfriend’s stockings, and to Kiowas faithfulness.

  22. The Things They Carried demonstrates the value of fellowship/comrades by illustrating how fellowship can help to counter the traumatic and unstable aspects of war, through the soldiers’ actions and feelings towards each other.

  23. O’Brien emphasizes the theme of morality in the novel through the struggles Jimmy Cross went through following Lavender’s death, the courage that Tim summoned to accept his draft, and the lack of morals in true war stories and in war itself.

  24. O’Brien displays the roles of gender throughout the novel by Mary Anne defying the expectations of a woman, Ted Lavender and his use of tranquilizers, and Henry Dobbins use of stockings to objectify women.

  25. O’Brien depicts the lives of the men as both soldiers and civilians by contrasting human nature against the deadly effects of war, illustrating their desires to return to the normalcy of their home, and their longing to retain close friendships with one another.

    -By Abigail Roy and Kalie Nuss

  26. The soldiers of Vietnam are under a continual barrage of emotional and physical pain. The three chapters “How to Tell a True War Story”, “The Things They Carried”, and “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong” suggest that Vietnam is no place for love. Love cannot prosper in a place where those who feel it are constantly being made vulnerable by doing so.
    -Nicholas Scott & Sidharth Edupuganti

  27. In his novel, O’Brien demonstrates the theme of identity and gender by exploring and often defying the different masculine and feminine stereotypes (“Stockings”), destroying and rebuilding the soldiers’ identities (“The Things They Carried”), and showing the gradual consumption of both by Vietnam (“Sweetheart of Song Tra Bong”).

  28. Tim O’Brien uses traditional gender roles to better demonstrate the hardships and hopelessness of war in the chapters “The Things They Carried,” “Love,” and “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong.”
    This is exemplified through the use of describing war as a masculine environment, the infatuation and objectification of women, and the symbolism of civilian life through the use of women.

  29. In the Things They Carried, the individuality of soldiers is often atomized in war as soldiers are lost as just a number among the mass amount of troops sent to war. This can be seen in the defacement of Ted Lavender when he is killed in “The Things They Carried”, Norman Bowker only being seen by his father as a way to earn medals and honor for his family in “Spin”, and when Rat Kiley killed the water buffalo in “How to Tell a True War Story”. (Emma Coburn and Jillian Ramos)

  30. The themes of superstition, faith and belief are demonstrated in the chapters “The Things They Carried”, “Church”, and “Style” through Lt. Cross’ pebble, Kiowa’s faithfulness, and the Vietnamese girl’s dance.

  31. O’Brien conveys the theme of the effects of war by showing how one’s personality can drastically alter over time, the unpredictable actions that war can cause someone to make and the shattering of important bonds and relationships.

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