The Things They Carried In his story, “The Things They Carried,” Tim O’Brien describes a group of soldiers marching through Vietnam. O’Brien does this by describing the items that each carries with him during the war. The items in which the soldiers carry with them are both tangible and intangible items, each item depending in a certain character.
The soldiers carry the basic ‘provisions’ for survival and that bare minimum essentials for life. But they also carry memories, and fears, and it is intangible items like these that are the prime concentration of the story. The abstract items carry a weight that is as real as that of any physical one, and unlike the physical objects, they are not easily dismissed. The whole book is a list. A list which continues to go on and on. Throughout the chapters, O'Brien takes snippets out of the overpowering list and describes them in detail.
His use of ‘things’ is to stress the infinite number of items and feelings soldiers carried. Ranging from machine guns to letters and to the fear of death. All of this cannot be summed up by any word other than ‘things’.
As the soldiers deadened, concealed, and sheltered their emotions, O’Brien depicts how each man became a victim to dehumanization during the Vietnam War. O’Brien express’ how the soldiers had to accept and dismiss death at the same time, additionally creating their lives to become more monotonous and perfunctory. O’Brien’s description of items, both personal and not, show the physical burden placed on the troops day in and day out. The author states “Often they carried each other, the wounded or weak. They carried infections. They carried chess sets, basketballs, Vietnamese-English dictionaries, insignia of ran, Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts, plastic cards imprinted with the Cod of Conduct.
They carried diseases, among them malaria and dysentery. They carried lice and ringworm and leeches and paddy algae and various rots and molds. They carried the land itself …they carried the sky … they carried it,” (page 14-25 lines 22-4).
O’Brien creates a monotonous rhythm with the additional repeated phrase “they carried”. Each added phrase express’ yet another item the soldiers must clutch while marching. The unremitting list of all the items they carry emphasizes the mammoth physical burden each man has to tolerate. It is basically the understanding that aside from physical scars, soldiers returned with more embedded emotional and.