Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Are you okay with it?

Delicious street food in Vietnam.
I'm on the bottom right eating Bún chả
Tim O'Brien, in the short story, The Things They Carried, tries to contradict the way hollywood and other exciting stories depict war. It's fictional, but O'Brien's personal experience fighting in the Vietnam War is is pretty obvious from his ability to powerfully depict the complex setting of the war.  The story takes place in Vietnam, but the setting of this story is better described by the nature and interesting features of the characters in Luitenant Cross's Squadron.  The plot of The Things They Carried, is simple. Only two things really happen, but they impact the reader dramatically, because of the overt humanization of the characters.

The Vietnam War was fought by mostly 18-25 year olds.  They had dreams and aspirations. They wanted to hold on to the parts of life the loved so far. O'Brien makes the statement that these soldiers had to give up those qualities that made them human in order to get through the war. This was symbolized by Cross burning his pictures of the girl he loved.

The Things They Carried interested me because I have had a fascination with Vietnam for a while now (it started when I discovered the origins of the cover of that Rage Against the Machine album). Last summer under the pretense of a music internship, I was able to go to Vietnam.  While reading this story, I was reminded of the uneasy feelings I had while getting ready to go to Vietnam. I read or watched material about the country's history and got to be a little depressing. Whether you think war is necessary or not, a teenager with a scared mother and a hopeful girlfriend being killed for you is a hard thing to swallow. It leaves you asking, "am I okay with this?" And that is exactly what O'Brien was going for.


  1. I like your analysis about the soldiers putting off humanistic qualities in order to get through the war and its connection with Lieutenant Cross and the letters; I hadn't thought of it like that, but i think it's a cool idea.

  2. Great post. I think the corruptions of the Vietnam War or further any way are evident and hold strong arguments. It is always good to see someone recognize the realness of things.

  3. I liked your post! As I thought about the things that they carried, I felt heavy because of the heaviness of what they had to carry. Not so much the tangible things but what weighed on them in their hearts and minds. Especially hard because so many of their dreams and aspirations were crushed.