Historical Perspective on the Things They Carried

Historical Perspective on The Things They Carried
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is a collection of interrelated short story’s that, although billed as fiction, cannot really be viewed as a   traditional novel. O’Brien often blurs fiction and nonfiction, into a writing style that he refers to as “metafiction” leaving the reader wondering if the stories told are the truth, or just stories.   O’Brien was born and raised in a small town in Minnesota, and attended college at McCalester College.   In 1968 he was drafted, and despite the fact that he was against the war, he reported for duty and was shipped out to Vietnam arriving shortly after the Mai Lai Massacre.   Published in 1990, The Things They Carried, which was preceded by a story of the same name, follows O’Brien’s recollection of a series of common events that occurred while serving in the infantry during the Vietnam Conflict.   While there is only one story directly related to the first, Love, all of the stories follow the same set of characters, especially Lieutenant Jimmy Cross.   Ironically, or perhaps on purpose, the book’s title page terms it “A work of fiction by Tim O’Brien,” but the main character and narrator is Tim O’Brien who is a Vietnam veteran and writer, and this lends to the speculation of whether these stories are indeed just that, or if they are biographical in nature.   Regardless, Tim O’Brien paints a vivid picture of War and the things that men carry with them, both tangible and intangible, long after the   they have gone home.
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The first story, “The Things They Carried” focuses on the men of Alpha company, and the young lieutenant who must provide them leadership in completing a mission that seemingly has no purpose, no meaning and no foreseeable end in sight.   It describes at length, and in vivid detail the things a soldier must carry, both tangible and intangible, and is a metaphor   for the burden of war they carry both for themselves and the...