The life of a soldier during the historic battle of Vietnam which defined the mid 1900’s is accurately represented in this book. Tim O’Brien wrote the book The Things They Carried from his personal experiences in the Vietnamese war. The book is an epic collection of the struggles soldiers face during their ‘real’ work which is war. Although they are supposed to focus on the task at hand, they are more susceptible emotionally because of loneliness in the force. Every soldier in any war can relate to the struggles depicted be O’Brien in his book and also their loved ones back at home. The plot and its characters cover all the social awkwardness the soldiers experience in their platoons
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In the age of technology, the young generation is playing battle simulations in consoles trying to feel what soldiers feel in battle. A substitute to the consoles is this book, not only does it narrate the battle but it has extras, that is, their struggles in achieving a hero status back at home. The struggles are a lot because of the constant reminder that their lives are in the hands of their adversaries. Loneliness creeps in every day, especially in their day when technology was a myth. Each day their souls were growing distant from their families not only geographically but emotionally as well.
The plot gravitates on the burdens the soldiers had to carry from the physical artillery to their emotional burdens. The author confesses that the main thing that kept the men going was the burdens that they were carrying during the war. The burdens metaphorically translate the emotional burdens which is applicable to the readers in their daily endeavors. Most of these men have different burdens to bear and the heaviest of all is hope. Hope that they will not die in battle and also hope that their companions will not die in their arms. The anticipation that they will resume their lives with no adjustment issues after the war has ended. The resuming seems automatic at face value but the emotional scars will also be an issue because of their conscious. Although the training before the war might have reduced this, taking the lives of their fellow men might haunt them for eternity.
Some burdens are individualistic and the weight is at maximum capacity to show their preparedness of any situation. In addition to the artillery each soldier carried their own personal belongings depending on their tastes and hobbies. The weaponry was responsible for majority of the weight; the burdens had the sole benefit as a shield in the event of battle. As we read on we have an experience of the weight on the backs, and as it added up their morale also went down.
In the second section of the story the author describes the emotional burdens during the war. This burden depressed them even more together with grief, terror and love. Being men, showing vulnerability, read emotions, was not an option because they had to protect their reputations. These feelings were buried inside every man in the platoon but none of them cared to share their agony. The war had to continue despite the soldiers’ fears and burdens. They were focused on the task in order to win the war. The only thing that is seen as a driving force in this company is the fear of shame. According to the writer, his experiences depicted that this fear before his peers had been the motivating factor in the war. Looking keenly into this situation one can see that the soldiers sometimes do not fight because they are patriotic or due to the fact that they are dedicated to their countries. What stops them from fleeing the battlefield is the thought of criticism that they may get from the friends and family. This is an illustration of conflict being heavily explored in The Things They Carried. The issue is characterized by the expectations put on any individual by the society and the personal desires or wishes during the proper course of actions. This problem was affecting soldiers before the war and during the battle; and this had made some soldiers to do some absurd and dangerous things. For example, in The Dentist Curt Lemon decided to have a perfect tooth pulled out just to overcome the shame he had had as a youth. Lemon fainted during his visit to the dentist far long before the war. This mixture of psychological emotions had posed a danger both in the platoon and outside. Lieutenant Jimmy Cross endangers the lives of his friends simply because he chooses to join the fight as his friends had joined it. This, according to the writer, shows the compelling force that peers have towards the decision making of their friends. However, he also states that shame has a big role in the winning of battles. It is what drives the soldiers to work together and with respect and terms it as the motivation to go to war and to win it.
It is necessary to state that there is a problem that cannot be ignored. These are the effects of war, both social and psychological. In The Things They Carried, O’Brien shows and writes several stories displaying these effects experienced by the soldier, his partner in war. In this book, the stories which stand out include: the story of Jimmy Cross who narrates his personal letter to Martha. He writes that he is unable to love simply because he has never forgiven himself. The thought of having killed Ted Lavender intentionally haunts him throughout the story. In addition, Norman Bowker’s confusion and grief are so strong that they make him drive recklessly to his hometown. Ironically, the lesson that the readers get from this mind-capturing book is that there is no morality during the war. In this collection of stories, the war is depicted as confusing and subjective as it poses extreme conditions with no solutions.
War is not a happy place, it is not fun and this will impact the soldiers adversely. Their reception back at home will be that of heroes but deep down they are irked by their actions no matter the justification for war. The battlefield is a defining moment both physically and emotionally and the soldiers are supposed to have a smooth transition back to their former lives
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