Themes and Motifs in Tim O'Brien's the Things They Carried

Themes and motifs in The things they carried

      Having been nominated for Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1991, The Things They Carried (1990) by William Timothy O’Brien American novelist, short story writer, and journalist is considered one of the leading pieces of Vietnam literature. Since O’Brien had already been known for his work, this book was being waited for with great expectations. Published in 1990, The Things They Carried consists of 22 interconnected short stories dealing with the mental injuries American soldiers suffered from during and also after the Vietnam War. Though a group of short stories, the book is often classified as a composite novel.
      In this paper, I am going to reflect on the various themes and motifs emerging in the story of The Things They Carried. Isolation and loneliness, fiction and reality, morality and immorality, Tim O’Brien hid a lot more under the surface than what is visible at first sight. Critics point out that O’Brien is constantly jumping between fiction and reality making the reader confused as to what has really happened and what is just the imagination of Tim O’Brien himself. In spite of the author’s claim that "truth in literature has nothing to do with what actually happened", similarities between what he writes and what he experienced in the Vietnam War are clearly apparent.
      Ever since the publication of his first book If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and
Ship Me Home in 1973, the Vietnam War has been a recurring theme in his works. As a twenty-two-year-old man in the infantry, O’Brien "loathed the war and everything about it, but it would become the catalyst and continuing inspiration for his literary career." Given the theme as the Vietnam War, O’Brien no wonder writes in a realistic style, reflecting precisely what happened in the war with all the description of ordinary life and philosophical ideas. The title, too, is something that implies the short story’s...