In Order to Be Informative the Shape and/or Style of a Text Must Always Be Straightforward

In order to be informative the shape and/or style of a text must always be straightforward. To what extent do you agree?

Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” models a story around the Vietnam war and the experiences of the narrator. The novel itself is not straightforward in its approach to presenting this idea, and does not provide factual information, yet it is largely psychologically and emotionally informative to the reader, giving us ideas on what it was to be a soldier in a war that had no blame or pride. Tim O’Brien allows a regular style, with an involved and complicated shape to tell the reader that the main purpose of a fictional piece, especially this novel, is not to educate us, but to illicit emotion and feeling within the reader.

Tim O’Brien offers us the vignette “Speaking of Courage” two thirds of the way through the book to push this idea of the novel being emotionally informative, despite having a complicated and messy shape. He takes us on a cyclic journey, with mismatched anecdotes, and characters seemingly appearing and disappearing with no forewarning to alert the reader, enticing us to care about and empathise with the protagonist, Norman Bowker. The vignette doesn’t provided us with any factual information about the war as such, and the few facts we are provided are disregarded in the following vignette “Notes”, instead we are educated on the psyche and emotion of Bowker. We read about the internal fight between his id, his most basic desire to talk about his experiences, and his superego, avoiding the subject to placate the town, realising that the only place he can find solace and talk about his experiences is in his mind, a common theme amongst many soldiers coming out of the Vietnam war. Bowker internally talks to his father, a lost love, and a friend who has long since passed to voice his story. We understands that Bowker needs to talk about his experiences to obtain a sense of validation. He needs to know that this experience...