Themes In The Things They Carried Essays

A major theme that this story explores is the initiation of young men in wartime, when youths must become men. Pranksters must become killers, dreamers must become realists—or someone dies. The world of the intellect (Lieutenant Cross is a college graduate, Martha’s letters express her admiration for Geoffrey Chaucer and Virginia Woolf) is of little relevance here; neither is romance or idealism. Courage becomes a concept without meaning. Getting through the experience alive is the important thing, as Kiowa knows too well. Fear paralyzes them all, yet somehow they manage to continue their march, to put themselves at risk, to carry out their orders. The trick is to survive.

The weight of their burdens is real. What these men have to nourish and protect them is only what they bear on their backs. Scarcely past boyhood, a medic packs his comic books and M&M candies for the relief of particularly bad wounds. A gentle soldier carries a rubbery brown thumb cut from a Viet Cong corpse. A third, a big, stolid man, packs with him the delicacy of canned peaches and his girlfriend’s pantyhose. The men also carry infection, disease, and the land itself in the particles of dust and mud. They carry fear. They carry the weight of memory; they carry ghosts. They carry the burden of being alive; they carry “all they could bear, and then some.”

Each man likewise carries within himself a longing for escape from the senseless and terrible reality of war. Some make their escape through sleep, as Kiowa does. Others manage to survive through daydreams, like Lieutenant Cross, or through drugs, like Ted Lavender. Every man waits for the blessed moment when a plane, or “freedom bird,” will lift him above the ruined earth, the sordidness and death, his own shameful acts, into the lightness of air and the promise of home. The phrase “Sin loi! . . . I’m gone!” echoes in their real and imagined nightmares.

The Things They Carried - Themes Essay

970 Words4 Pages

     In Tim O’Brien’s novel, The Things They Carried, numerous themes are illustrated by the author. Through the portrayal of a number of characters, Tim O’Brien suggests that to adapt to Vietnam is not always more difficult than to revert back to the lives they once knew. Correspondingly the theme of change is omnipresent throughout the novel, specifically in the depiction of numerous characters.
     Tim O’Brien is drafted one month after graduating from Macalester College to fight a war he hated. Tim O’Brien believed he was above the war, and as a result pursued the alternative of escaping across the border to Canada. This understandable act is what Tim O’Brien considers an…show more content…

Rat Kiley’s metamorphosis occurs when the platoon switches to a routine of night movement

for 2 weeks. Rat is unable to adjust to this night life, and begins to act eccentric towards the surrounding environment. Rat Kiley’s hallucinations eventually leads to his demise when he shoots himself in the foot to escape the war.
          He shot himself… Nobody blamed him. Before the chopper came, there                was time for goodbyes. Lieutenant Cross went over and said he’d vouch                that it was an accident… Everyone stood in a little circle, feeling bad                about it, trying to cheer him up with bullshit about the great night life in                Japan.      (O’Brien 251)
Rat Kiley’s company understood what happened, and no one could impugn his reason for doing so. All the troops had their own demons to take care of, Rat Kiley just dealt with his in a different way.
     Mary Anne, The sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong, experiences perhaps the most radical form of change in the novel. Marry Anne, the innocent, curious, typical-American

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