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Truth in The Things They Carried Essay


The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien expresses the importance of a story-truth, as opposed to a happening-truth by use of literary elements in his writing. The novel is about war and the guilt it leaves on everyone involved in the war. The four literary devices he uses to express this are diction, imagery, juxtaposition, and hyperbole. All of these elements allow the reader to identify emotion that is expressed in each story, as though that were the complete truth.

O'Brien's diction is descriptive. O'Brien's use of diction describes events in more emotional ways to express his feelings at the time of the event. His reason for using stories is because he urges the reader to feel what he felt. For example, in the story Good Form, O'Brien expresses why he tells stories. "What stories can do, I guess, is make things present. I can look at things I never looked at. I can attach faces to grief and love and pity and God. I can be brave. I can make myself feel again." OBriens statement tells how his emotions can be expressed by make believe stories or story-truths. In order to make a story important, he must show the reader what he felt by describing the event in such a way that makes the reader feel like the action is right in their face.

Juxtaposition is used to show story truth importance by explaining how similar story-truth and happening-truth are in any story. OBrien states how in a happening-truth there were many bodies, real bodies with real faces, but I was young then and I was afraid to look. He explains the story-truth as though he were still there. He was a slim, dead, almost dainty young man about twenty. He puts these detailed images close in contrast accentuating the difference between the two ideas of truth, what actually happened, and what seemed to have happened. OBrien exemplifies truth in ambiguous ways, he pursues an emotional attachment between the reader and the characters in his story, and not only to deliver what happened, but also the cargo the emotional distress upon soldiers in war. The use of juxtaposition in the novel, used in reference to true truth supplies the reader with emotions of war as well as facts.

OBrien uses metaphors to show the readers what physical things the soldiers carried with them. One soldier named Kiowa, for example, carried his grandmothers distrust of the white man, his grandfathers old hunting hatchet. This metaphor shows how the soldier is still affected by the discrimination that his grandmother suffered at the hands of white people. Additionally, OBrien explained that the soldiers carried the atmosphere with them by carrying the humidity, monsoons, stink of fungus and decay, and gravity. It can be concluded from that statement that the soldiers arent looking too hot because of the weather and the land they're on. As an addition to this metaphor, OBrien adds that the soldiers carry Vietnam on them in the form of powdery red-orange dust that covers their boots, fatigues, and faces. This is important because late in their lives when they see powder of a similar color, they'll instantly be brought to Vietnam. Additionally, O'Brien is also alluding to their time after the war when they're all home and will constantly be thinking about fighting and the land of Vietnam.

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