In the story “The Things They Carried by” which is narrated by Tim O'Brien they had an intense war at Vietnam War where they gained and lost at the same time. The story is based on the experience he had in the tour to the Vietnam conflict. O’Brien’s describes on the moral dilemma during the Vietnam War and how the soldiers fought by contradicting each other and being reluctant during the war. O’Brien’s was guilt on the war and was at a catch 22 situation on how to carry on the war as he did not want to take a course which will make him feel guilty.
He was guilty of ignoring his own objection that United States should not be involved in war against Vietnam. However, the only way he could be able to withstand the guilt is by getting the approval of his community to proceed on with the war. During the war most of the soldiers were reluctant as provided by the statement “The young carhop turned slowly, as if puzzled, then said something to the boys in the Firebird and moved reluctantly toward him” (Konkle, p.36) There were real conflict among the solders with each of the solders having their own means of fighting during the way and even whatever they were to carry. Due to such conflicts administration of the war was difficult.
For the object present to their character is that all the things which they carry is precious in one way or the other else they would have not carried it. Most of the soldiers were carrying twenty pounds worth of gear and whatever they were carrying was dependent on their fear. Some would carry more ammunition than others while others due to homesickness would carry comic books or even good luck charms.
O’Brien’s cast doubts on the story mostly because of the guilt which he had concerning the war. His own sense of guilt made him much concerned “In part, no doubt, it was my own sense of guilt, but even so I'm absolutely certain that the old man took one look and went right to the heart of things—a kid in trouble” (Konkle, p.39). However, he was able to identify what is fact and truth depending on the progress of the war.
In the story “things they carry” Tim O'Brien's uses elements of his own life so that he is able to bring the reality facing the soldiers in Vietnam. He is able to blur the lines between fact and fiction in the stories since giving a personal experience amounts to what persuade the readers on the actual issues that happened. Indeed, he is able to expound on the real life terrifying experience that soldiers and the residents of Vietnam are exposed to during the war.
O'Brien brings into focus that soldiers not only carry weapons but their own life follow them wherever they are; he gives an example of how Lieutenant Jimmy would carry letters from his girl friend named Martha (Konkle, p.37). This is a clear show of how the soldiers would be held down by emotional stress during the war. “To carry something was to hump it, as when Lieutenant Jimmy Cross humped his love for Martha up the hills and through the swamps. In its intransitive form, to hump meant to walk, or to march, but it implied burdens far beyond the intransitive” (Konkle, p.56). Lieutenant Jimmy was always reading the letters time and time again, maybe to remind him of the life he left behind and hope he would go back to it. Though the letters were not very heavy and only weighed 10 ounces they were a heavy and constant reminder of the virgin girl that Lieutenant James left back at home and the great moment they shared.
O'Brien also brings out the need to carry necessities that were very essential to the life of a soldier. In this regard, the author is able to blur the lines of fiction since given the things they carried one would imagine the harsh conditions the soldiers would undergo and believe the whole story (Konkle, p.59). He describes how Ted Lavender used to carry tranquillizers since he was a scared soldier; Dave Jensen used to carry tooth brush and dental floss and bars soaps since he always cared about hygiene; and Henry Dobbins who would always carry extra rations since he would not get satisfied with the normal rations.
The theme that is derived in this story is the suffering and the tribulations of the soldiers during the Vietnam War. This is brought out by the fact that the soldiers used to survive daily on very stressful conditions especially because they carried very necessary personal effects and the memories of their good life haunted them every moment. The symbol that indicated this suffering was on the things that they carried which they were all inclusive of the things that they would use. In fact, they were not worried of serious issues such as hygiene. They were to spend cold nights with the nylon covered flak jacket which they would also carry and wear during the very hot days (Konkle, p.62).
The rank was also a great factor that determined what they carried, in addition to the speciality in the field. There were those who would be lucky to carry fewer loads such as maps, binoculars, code books and a .45 caliber pistol such as the lieutenant. The RTO used to carry a 26 pound killer, and a PRC-25 radio. While the medics used to carry the medication and first aid kits that would weigh approximately 20 pounds (Konkle, p.64). Other used to carry heavy machine guns with numerous rounds of ammunitions draped around the chest and should using belts. They would do this for all day and at very difficult terrains and topography.
The common element connecting all of them is love and the memories they carried of the peace and good times they had in the earlier days. These memories are able to move the reader and the society since they never knew their fate. Life memories were the heaviest things they carried since it was always uncertain whether they would go back.