What Makes the Things They Carried a Story
Tim O’Brien has created a unique novel in The Things They Carried by using styles, such as changing points of view, “clashing the boundaries between truth and fiction” , and use of repetition for effect. Tim O’Brien creates a one of a kind storyline in the novel “The Things They Carried”. Style is how an author tells a story, and O’Brien demonstrates his style throughout the novel. One of O’Brien many styles is his presentation of certain chapters as the author and also a solider named Tim O’Brien, his fictional character.
He also changes points of view, he blurs the borders between truth and fiction” (Colella 23) His frequent use of repetition for effect creates a greater emotional ground. In The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien has used his own experiences in Vietnam with his imagination to bind together a series of short stories. These styles are key features of the novel. One of O’Briens styles is to present a certain chapter as the author Tim O’Brien, and to present others as his fictional character, also named “Tim O’Brien”. This gives way to the elements within the story.
O’Brien’s style is “one marked by examining an event from a distance,” either spatially or temporally, and the creation of “O’Brien” allows for this distance (Colella 79). O’Brien himself is the main character. “he demonstrates in fiction what he does in real life, writing stories about the past to better understand it” (Wesley 4). O’Brien’s fictionalized character is a former “foot soldier in the Vietnam War, a member of Alpha Company”, and a Vietnam veteran recounting his experiences from the war (O’Brien 15) .
The purpose of the fictional character is to tell of the tragedy of war O’Brien created this imitation of himself in the novel to serve as the eyes and ears of the reader. The reader follows “O’Brien” around Vietnam, “experiencing his fear, guilt, curiosity, and blood lust” (Everett 47). Many times the stories are meant to evoke emotions in the reader at abrupt and usually tragic endings. The stories usually involve a character who the reader comes to know and love.
As well as changing perspectives, O’Brien puts into action a unique style by “blurring the boundaries between truth and fiction” The relationship between fictions and reality arises early in the novel when the reader learns the “first of many things that are the same that emerge as the book progresses: that the central character and narrator, like the real author of The Things They Carried, is named Tim O’Brien. ” Both real and the fictional character Tim O’Brien are in their forties and live in Minnesota, writers who graduated from Macalester College, served in Vietnam, attended graduate school at Harvard, and wrote books entitled If I Die in a Combat Zone and Going After Cacciato (Dye 74).
While these are true, other parts are imaginary. Also, the supposedly fictional characters of the book sound real because the dedication states, “This book is lovingly dedicated to the men of Alpha Company, and in particular to Jimmy Cross, Norman Bowker, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Henry Dobbins, and Kiowa. leaving the reader to think if the men of Alpha Company are real or imaginary. O’Brien himself stated in an interview with Ronald Baughman, “It’s kind of a semantic game: lying versus truth-telling, but I think it’s an important game that writers and readers and anyone interested in general should be fully aware of. One doesn’t lie for the sake of purpose and that purpose always is to arrive at some kind of spiritual truth that one can’t discover simply by recording the world-as-it-is. Related post game of things
We’re inventing and using imagination for sublime reasons-to get at the essence of things, not merely the surface” (3). Though O’Brien has made it clear in interviews that he believes the truth in literature has nothing to do with what actually happened, the similarities between his writing and his experience in Vietnam are very similar in many ways. O’Brien also has a tendency to tell a story one chapter, and then within the same chapter, or next one, he says that the entire story is false or just part of it is true O’Brien does not necessarily lie, he changes the definition of telling the truth.
O’Brien highlights the overall style that defines The Things They Carried: “constantly changing at random, unexpected, marked by telling juxtapositions, diffuse, not easily defined” (Colella 99). This creation brings about an interesting tension between what is true and what is not quite true and produces a sense of distrust in the author that “runs throughout the novel like a hairline crack in a foundation. ” “Style for O’Brien, is an overarching theme of the novel,” because these themes of unevenness, randomness, and lack of definition can be applied to the Vietnam War itself (Colella 98).
As well as changing points of view. He uses the technique in the first chapter of the novel, “The Things They Carried”. In the chapter he repeatedly list items soldiers carried along with how much they weigh. This minute details he provides about objects that individuals carry is “telling” (Bradley 6). This technique of cataloging the things the soldiers carry also functions to make the characters feel more real to the readers in such a way that the reader can “feel” the weight that the character is carrying. An excerpt from the chapter states:
The things they carried were largely determined by necessity… P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wrist watches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes… C rations, and two or three canteens of water. Together, these items weighed between 15 and 20 pounds… Ted Lavender carried 6 or 7 ounces of premium dope… Each man carried a flak jacket which weighed 6. 7 pounds… The letters weighed 10 ounces as well as a poncho which weighed 2 pounds… M-60, which weighed 23 pounds… Each man fully loaded weighed just over 100 pounds. (O’Brien 2-6)
The primary reason O’Brien uses the method of repetition is because the items foreshadow narratives that comprise the novel and to create “fuller composites of the characters” (Colella 6). The visual of helping readers connect with his characters is O’Brien’s primary objective in the novel, to make the readers get into the story he presents as much as is “physically and emotionally” possible, as if it were real. Though the details that O’Brien includes seems stupid, it is supposed to be good in his readers imagination so they can begin to feel the physical weight of the “burdens of war”, as well as the psychological and emotional burdens.
O’Brien’s use of sensory detail also supports this primary objective of getting a response in the reader (Wesley 24). The “common factor” for O’Brien is “gut instinct. A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe” (Colella 44). O’Brien demonstrates this idea by employing repetition Tim O’Brien has created a unique novel in The Things They Carried by using styles, such as changing points of view, and use of repetition for effect (Colella 23), . By using these styles, O’Brien has created a new perspective on a controversial war.
He has allowed the reader to experience emotions not usually related with the Vietnam War. He preserved himself, since preservation lies in the memory of people. If the true measure of life is how long we live after we are gone, then keeping the memory of people alive through fiction is a means of preserving life. O’Brien says, “I’ll never die. I’m skimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt beneath the blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later.