Textual Analysis Of “The Things They Carried” By Tim O’Brien Review

The Things They Carried is a literary work authored by Tim O’Brien. The book is set at a time when the American soldiers were engrossed in war in the Vietnam. Therefore, the literature focuses on the life of American society within the army. A critical analysis of the literature shows that the literature is relevant to Americans as it touches on their history within the period they were warring with Vietnam. In addition, the social impacts of the war cannot be overlooked, more so the transformations to the language that was used before and after the war. Most importantly, the literature helps the Americans to understand their country as they gain knowledge about the nation and the diversity they exhibit as different persons.

Firstly, this novel is relevant to the Americans today as they are able to relate with the history of their nation in a more detailed approach. Vietnamese war is placed in the historical context of American history. The narrator says that after graduating from Macalester College in June of 1968, he was drafted to fight American war in Vietnam (O’Brien 41). From the narrator, it can be deduced that the American government was recruiting young college graduates into the war. Moreover, America-Vietnam war was shrouded in a mystery that even some of the American fighters were not fully aware of the causes of the war. O’Brien narrates that even the smartest of the Americans could not agree on matters of public policy (O’Brien 42). Opinions were divided on whether the war was an act of simple aggression or national liberation. The narrator describes how he killed a Viet Cong soldier using all physical details. O’Brien opined that “certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons” (41). As evident, the novel is important in helping the American nationals understand the war and the occurrences during the aggression.

Secondly, the novel depicts war as having negative outcomes especially to social aspects such as language and behavior in American society. In illustration, some derogatory terms are associated with effect of Vietnam invasion by American. For example, O’Brien says that vulgarity that was coming from soldiers was as a result of the soldiers being sent to war (O’Brien 63). More explicitly, Rat Kiley uses the derogatory term of “cooze” to refer to Curt Lemon’s sister whom he had sent a letter but had not replied (O’Brien 63). This depicts Kiley’s language vulgarity because he failed to use words that showed respect such as “woman”, or “lady”. Furthermore, war is shown to cause social delineation as some Vietnam War veterans were unable to cope with the post-war life. Norman Bowker commits suicide by hanging himself in a YMCA locker room in his hometown (O’Brien 134). Bowker’s death followed his admission to O’Brien that he was not able to find meaningful purpose for his life after the Vietnam War. Without doubt, the novel’s relevance lies on its ability to explain the disadvantages of America’s incursion of Vietnam.

Apart from the relevance of the novel to American society, there are some lessons that one can gain from the literature. The main lessons that can be gained from the literature can be summarized to two. Principally, the American soldiers experienced mental turmoil during the Vietnam War. Secondly, Americans understand that when people are exposed to horror, their perception about morality and wrong changes. As such, Americans come to understand themselves more when they read O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.

Indeed people carry various things with them on each day. All the things range from physical, spiritual or emotional ones. Nevertheless, the mental stability is important for a proper functioning of an individual. It is for this reason that the soldiers in O’Brien’s article carried different things so as to adapt to the war situation in Vietnam. A soldier by the name Ted Lavender carried six or seven ounces of premium dope while Kiley carried comic books (O’Brien 13). It means that the American soldiers were grappling with trauma following the deaths of their colleagues during the Vietnam-America War.

Principles of right or wrong can be modified by the traumatic experiences people undergo. As a result, it leads to the concept of ambiguous morality among the affected persons. For example, the vicious killings of people from the American and Vietnam sides resulted to some of the soldiers to point at the irony while dealing with the losses. Immediately after Ted Lavender’s, Mitchell Sanders jokes that the moral of Ted’s accidental death was to stay away from the drugs (O’Brien 26). From Sanders’ remark, it is clearly evident that his notions about morality had shifted from normalcy.

In conclusion, O’Brien’s novel The Things They Carried explains the American history to the current generation in an explicit manner. Additionally, there are unfavourable social transformations such as development of derogatory and demeaning terms that are used by the combatants in the war. By exploring the importance of the novel, the Americans also learn that their country experienced mental instability among soldiers during the America-Vietnam War. In essence, they learn that the mental turmoil can cause them to have a defective judgement on morality, as was the case with the soldiers. Therefore, the novel is important in explaining the relationship between the Vietnamese War and its significance on the American society.

Work Cited

O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. Mariner Books, 2009.