The Things They Carried Study Guide

The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

The Things They Carried is a 1990 collection of short stories by Tim O'Brien about a platoon of American soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War. The stories follow the members of O'Brien's platoon, their traumas, their values, their losses and hopes. Although much of the stories reflects real events, O'Brien wrote the stories as fiction, believing that, unlike a chronicle of purely-factual information, fiction better conveyed the emotional and experiential truth of the war.

In the short story "Good Form," the narrator makes a distinction between "story truth" and "happening truth." O'Brien feels that the idea of creating a story that is technically false yet truthfully portrays war, as opposed to just stating the facts and creating no emotion in the reader, is the correct way to clear his conscience and tell the story of thousands of soldiers. Critics often cite this distinction when commenting on O'Brien's artistic aims in The Things They Carried and, in general, all of his fiction about Vietnam, claiming that O'Brien feels that the realities of the Vietnam War are best explored in fictional form rather than the presentation of precise facts.

O'Brien's fluid and elliptical negotiation of truth in this context finds echoes in works labeled as 'non-fiction novels'. The fine line of what constitutes fiction versus non-fiction is blurred throughout the book, for though Tim O'Brien claims this book to be fiction, the author and the protagonist share the same name and same profession as writers. Additionally, the character Tim references writing the book Going After Cacciato which the author Tim had written and published previously. The theme of believing in the people around you and having reliable people with you comes from the time period being filled with people who are opposed to the action of war. This causes the people who are drafted into the mutual hate to band together to live.

You'll need to sign up to view the entire study guide.

Sign Up Now, It's FREE
Source: Wikipedia, released under the Creative Commons Attributions/Share-Alike License
Filter Your Search Results: