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The Things They Carried

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

14 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

The Things I Think

The author, Tim O'Brien who is also the protagonist, begins his novel by describing an event that occurred in the middle of his war experience in Vietnam. In "The Things They Carried" Tim O'Brien describes what his fellow soldiers in the Alpha Company took with them on ...
The author, Tim O'Brien who is also the protagonist, begins his novel by describing an event that occurred in the middle of his war experience in Vietnam. In "The Things They Carried" Tim O'Brien describes what his fellow soldiers in the Alpha Company took with them on their missions both mentally and physically. Many things they brought with them are intangible, while others are physical objects, including matches, morphine, M-16 rifles, and M&M's which he seems to focus on the amounts of each of them.

Throughout the novel, he mentions many characters multiple times in various stories which are often partially true and meta-fiction. The first member of the Alpha Company to die is Ted Lavender,a low-ranking soldier who they refer to as a "Grunt." Lavender is a man who has found tranquilizers and marijuana the only way to relieve his anxiety and fix his problems. He is shot in the head on his way back from going to the bathroom, and when his leader, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, finds out of his death he blames himself for Lavender's unnecessary and tragic death. When Lavender is shot, Cross is deep in his thoughts of his college crush, Martha. O'Brien writes about how Cross's "love" for Martha was the cause of Lavender's death and he still holds his guilt years after the war has ended. O'Brien continues on describing the events he was involved in, and then goes into each of them describing how his fellow comrades and sometimes himself reacts, and attempts to overcome them. He uses somewhat real stories to describe how tough it is for a man to be in a situation like what he was in, meta-fiction suggesting that no real story can describe what it was like. These problems that were presented to O'Brien and his fellow soldiers in the Vietnam War changed all of their lives. The war changed them to such a point that every day, every moment of their lives yet to come will never be like before the war. O'Brien tells of others and how they have attempted to overcome their problems which are the same or similar to his. He seems to attempt to use their methods in hopes that they will fix his problems and he will be able to return to his life before he was given no choice but to head to war. O'Brien was led into a room with no way out, he is stuck carrying what he was carrying at the end of his experience in Vietnam and he is striving to find a way to get it off of his shoulders and find a better mental state. This novel could be thought of as a way that Tim O'Brien used to share his thoughts and feelings of the war and his post traumatic stress disorder.

Overall, this is an excellent novel. It is a great "thinker" book and is not a typical easy read for a High School student like myself. It is very fun to read, but it is also very difficult to read which would be one, if not my only dislike of this book. This book would be great to read because it gives you an excellent point of view from a veterans perspective; this novel shows a true veteran and what it is like to be one. An overall rating of five stars, a great book that brings satisfaction and difficulty at the same time.

posted by 2264573 on November 24, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

In the novel The Things They Carried by Tim O¿Brien indicates th

In the novel The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien indicates the abhorrent events during the Vietnam War in the 19th century. Tim O’Brien illustrates the experiences of the young soldiers were forced to fight in the war. In the beginning of the novel, O’Brien portrays ...
In the novel The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien indicates the abhorrent events during the Vietnam War in the 19th century. Tim O’Brien illustrates the experiences of the young soldiers were forced to fight in the war. In the beginning of the novel, O’Brien portrays the significance of what the soldiers carried demonstrating their personal emotions towards the war. O’Brien met many soldiers who they eventually later became important people to his life; Ted Lavender, Kiowa, Mitchell Sanders, Jimmy Cross, Lieutent Cross, Henry Dobbins and Rat Kiley. Throughout the novel, O’Brien utilizes vivid details, abhorrent imagery and distinct tone in order to convey an approach towards the fear of death and desire of survival in the soldiers’ viewpoint. As O’Brien and his fellow comrades stranded in a menace country, the fellow soldiers experience their first appalling death in Song Tra Bong. In addition, O’Brien and the boys get timid because their enemies attacked them and did not know what to do. However, in the end, O’Brien gets furious with Bobby because he made him get a stroke for his bullet wound. In conclusion, Tim lived his life in war, by witnessing repulsive deaths and experiencing physical emotions, which changed his whole life forever. What I think is most important about this story is how O’Brien illustrates the difference between telling moral stories and immoral stories. I recommend this book to everybody who enjoys reading war stories and obnoxious images of death because in this novel illustrates everything you can image about war in the 19th century.

posted by gloriaxoxox on December 17, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Things I Think

    The author, Tim O'Brien who is also the protagonist, begins his novel by describing an event that occurred in the middle of his war experience in Vietnam. In "The Things They Carried" Tim O'Brien describes what his fellow soldiers in the Alpha Company took with them on their missions both mentally and physically. Many things they brought with them are intangible, while others are physical objects, including matches, morphine, M-16 rifles, and M&M's which he seems to focus on the amounts of each of them.

    Throughout the novel, he mentions many characters multiple times in various stories which are often partially true and meta-fiction. The first member of the Alpha Company to die is Ted Lavender,a low-ranking soldier who they refer to as a "Grunt." Lavender is a man who has found tranquilizers and marijuana the only way to relieve his anxiety and fix his problems. He is shot in the head on his way back from going to the bathroom, and when his leader, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, finds out of his death he blames himself for Lavender's unnecessary and tragic death. When Lavender is shot, Cross is deep in his thoughts of his college crush, Martha. O'Brien writes about how Cross's "love" for Martha was the cause of Lavender's death and he still holds his guilt years after the war has ended. O'Brien continues on describing the events he was involved in, and then goes into each of them describing how his fellow comrades and sometimes himself reacts, and attempts to overcome them. He uses somewhat real stories to describe how tough it is for a man to be in a situation like what he was in, meta-fiction suggesting that no real story can describe what it was like. These problems that were presented to O'Brien and his fellow soldiers in the Vietnam War changed all of their lives. The war changed them to such a point that every day, every moment of their lives yet to come will never be like before the war. O'Brien tells of others and how they have attempted to overcome their problems which are the same or similar to his. He seems to attempt to use their methods in hopes that they will fix his problems and he will be able to return to his life before he was given no choice but to head to war. O'Brien was led into a room with no way out, he is stuck carrying what he was carrying at the end of his experience in Vietnam and he is striving to find a way to get it off of his shoulders and find a better mental state. This novel could be thought of as a way that Tim O'Brien used to share his thoughts and feelings of the war and his post traumatic stress disorder.

    Overall, this is an excellent novel. It is a great "thinker" book and is not a typical easy read for a High School student like myself. It is very fun to read, but it is also very difficult to read which would be one, if not my only dislike of this book. This book would be great to read because it gives you an excellent point of view from a veterans perspective; this novel shows a true veteran and what it is like to be one. An overall rating of five stars, a great book that brings satisfaction and difficulty at the same time.

    14 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 25, 2010

    Awsome Book

    I had to read this book for an Americna Literature Class during my undergraduate studies, and I loved it. Tim O'Brien kept me wanting to come back for more. The detail he uses describing the settings and events as they unfold will captivate you. The litteral and figural things they carry are so well explained by O'Brien. Deffinetly a must read for any Veteran or history lover.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    My All-Time Favourite Book

    After discovering The Perks of Being a Walflower by Steven Chbosky, I went straight to Arthur Nersesian's The F*ck Up, which were both incredible novels and were quintessentially the kinds of books that I loved to read. The Things They Carried, though a completely different sort of work, evoked the same kind of "voice" as The F*ck Up and 'Perks. I loved O'Brien's piece when it was a short story, which would ultimately become the first chapter of the novel; then to find out that it had been expanded into a full novel, I practically ran to my bookstore to get it. O'Brien's writing is so evocative and poignant, it's incredible sometimes that it doesn't collapse under its own weight. It just shows the reader his skill. I'm currently searching through some of his other works to see which one I'd like to start next, but this is something any fan of literature would want to sit down with. It just a pleasure reading.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2010

    A Truly Remarkable Read

    I read this book only because O'Brien was coming to my school to speak. I cannot be happier that this occurred! This book was nothing short of AMAZING, a truly remarkable read. The novel is essentially a series of interconnected short stories about a group of soldiers in Vietnam. My uncle was a Vietnam veteran, and he told me the book was about as good as they got when dealing with the subject matter (perhaps given to the fact O'Brien himself is a Vietnam veteran). I have encountered few books required by school that have made their way into my top-faves list. This one, I must say, is in at least spot three if not two. I cannot wait to read more by O'Brien and I hope he never stops writing!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2012

    In the novel The Things They Carried by Tim O¿Brien indicates th

    In the novel The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien indicates the abhorrent events during the Vietnam War in the 19th century. Tim O’Brien illustrates the experiences of the young soldiers were forced to fight in the war. In the beginning of the novel, O’Brien portrays the significance of what the soldiers carried demonstrating their personal emotions towards the war. O’Brien met many soldiers who they eventually later became important people to his life; Ted Lavender, Kiowa, Mitchell Sanders, Jimmy Cross, Lieutent Cross, Henry Dobbins and Rat Kiley. Throughout the novel, O’Brien utilizes vivid details, abhorrent imagery and distinct tone in order to convey an approach towards the fear of death and desire of survival in the soldiers’ viewpoint. As O’Brien and his fellow comrades stranded in a menace country, the fellow soldiers experience their first appalling death in Song Tra Bong. In addition, O’Brien and the boys get timid because their enemies attacked them and did not know what to do. However, in the end, O’Brien gets furious with Bobby because he made him get a stroke for his bullet wound. In conclusion, Tim lived his life in war, by witnessing repulsive deaths and experiencing physical emotions, which changed his whole life forever. What I think is most important about this story is how O’Brien illustrates the difference between telling moral stories and immoral stories. I recommend this book to everybody who enjoys reading war stories and obnoxious images of death because in this novel illustrates everything you can image about war in the 19th century.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 24, 2009

    Great Book

    I had to read this book as a summer assignment for english class. At first i thought it was another depressing war story, but upon further study and better understanding of the book i have come to appreaciate all the little details that make this a wonderful book. This book has also made me come to realize the little things that matter most in life, especially in such an extreme situation as war.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2014

    A Good Book

    I am currently reading this in my English 3 class and I have to say I'm finding it interesting. The book is raw and I like how Tim O'Brien doesn't sugercoat things. He tells it how it is. Like when the young man is killed he says, "His jaw was in his throat, one eye closed, the other a star-shaped hole." He dosen't just say the man dies, he tells what happened, what the young man looked like. I feel that when the war in Iraq was still going on we never got any details, we never knew what exactly happened. We were just told how many died and where they died. And to those of you who think this book has no plot or don't like how it's broken up or doesn't have a story line, stop and think for a moment. These are the author's memories, these are what happened. It doesn't matter if they're in order or not, what matters is that it's being told. These are war stories, they aren't going to be in order, in perfect succession. Do you think the Vietnam war was like that? In perfect order and succession? No, there were events that were unexpected and unplanned for, like someone getting killed. Yeah, you knew it was going to happen, but you didn't know when or to whom it would. So think about it before you say it had no story line or didn't make sense or it didn't have a plot. War stories don't have plots, they don't have story lines, and maybe, sometimes, they don't make sense. I mean, war really doesn't make sense, does it? And war stories are never true, to quote Tim O'Brien. These stories are supposed to make you think. It doesn't matter if they're true or not, just as long as they make you think. I would definitely recommend this book to someone because it lets us readers see some of the things the soldiers in Vietnam went through. I nevr really understood how bad the Vietnam war and knew exactly what the soldiers went through was until I read this book so I'm grateful and glad I am reading it so I can finally understand.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2014

    The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien is about his experience a

    The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien is about his experience and the experiences of Alpha Company. Tim tells the stories of all the trials and tribulations of Alpha company and all the hardships they endure. Tim does a fantastic job describing the events of Vietnam and with his ability to perfectly articulate the feeling of war, makes the reader feel the pain of the soldiers and the agony of war. Having said this, Tim throughout the book when he explains stories, jumps around and does not really give strong details. He begins stories while explaining another story, and then continues the original story a paragraph later. This makes its difficult to follow the story as itself and then you have to follow and keep track of the other stories themselves. Tim uses it as a way to connect with the characters but in reality makes it even more difficult to accomplish this. If you are into the Vietnam War and the real experiences of the war, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, is worth picking up.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2014

    ¿The Things They Carried,¿ was a phenomenal book written about a

    “The Things They Carried,” was a phenomenal book written about a certain period of time in Tim O’Brien’s life and the experiences he encountered. The majority of the book described his experience during the middle of the Vietnam War. Throughout the book he catalogs the variety of things his companions brought on their missions. Several of these things were intangible, such as emotions, while others were physical objects, including M-16, morphine and different types of candy. Not only did he signify what was brought on the missions he also touched on the things he and his fellow soldiers got out of the war and the affects they had on ever day life.
    Like all books “The Things They Carried,” portrayed a specific theme: physical and emotional burdens of war. While all the soldiers in the book carried a heavy physical load there was also an emotional load that all of them carried. These emotional burdens usually composed of grief, terror, love and even longing. To explain, Jimmy Cross, a superior officer of O’Brien’s, had an uncontrollable love for a girl by the name of Martha. So out of control that he often got distracted from the tasks at hand and blamed Lavenders death on account of his remembrance of Martha. This then led to an emotional burden of grief and sorrow for Jimmy Cross, one he felt he could never get rid of. Not only did these psychological burdens affect them throughout Vietnam, they continued to define them even after the war was over. Understanding this concept was one of O’Brien’s main focuses in telling his stories and in the end asked us to help carry the burden of the Vietnam War as part of our collective past.
    There were many aspects of this book that I took a liking to. For example, I felt he did an amazing job on describing the situation of him and his fellow soldiers throughout the war. I also found it interesting how he described all the things the men would carry and from that I, being the reader, could characterize and determine what kind of men they were and how they fit into the story. With that being said I wasn’t overly fond of how he bounced around in the book. One point it would be the middle of a crucial part in the war, then he would be at his home in Massachusetts reminiscing about his life making it very difficult to follow at times and often confusing. Every book has its negatives but I wouldn’t let the negatives, which I found in reading this, deter you from reading this exquisite and exceptionally moving novel by Tim O’Brien.
    I believe everyone that has the chance should read “The Things They Carried.” It gives this world a better understanding of what life is like as a soldier in a war. Many are unaware of the physical and emotional tolls a soldier goes through and I think this book does an accurate job of explaining what they actually go through and the longing affects too.
    After reading this book I would also recommend “If I Die in a Combat Zone,” and “Going After Cacciato,” both by Tim O’Brien. But overall “The Things They Carried,” was in my mind an award winning book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2013

    Questionable story techniques: true, not true, who knows.

    I read this book from the perspective of an infantry soldier who spent 12 months in the jungle in 1967 and 1968 in Vietnam. O'Brien is a skilled writer, but his technique of mixing fact and fiction and never clarifying which is which is troubling. Did a soldier actually shoot a young water buffalo over and over, torturing it? If so, where was his platoon leader lieutenant to allow such a thing? What about noise discipline? What was a water buffalo doing up on a mountain? They're creatures of the valleys and marshes. And why didn't O'Brien put a stop to it? I understand that he was a sergeant. I served as a sergeant in an infantry company and would have never allowed such an insane thing to continue. I'm dubious of his motives.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2012

    War story

    Awesome book definetly woth my money would defenitly buy it again!!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2012

    Great subject

    Could have been organized better tocreate more empathy with each charachter.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    What is all the rave about

    I did not find this book a good read. I like for a book to grab me and keep me turning the pages, this one did not. As a Viet Nam vet, I know where he and the guys in the book are coming from, but find some of the things they do a bit hard to believe. I know a lot of people like Mr.. O'Brians books but, well I guess I am different.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    An Insightful and Captivating View of the Inner and Outer Struggles of Soliders in the Vietnam War

    This book is offers a complex, poignant look at the life of a soldier, both in the war and after. The main character is named Tim (not the author of the book). Tim tells the story of his troop, the adventures they experience, and the personalities of all the men. Each story represents a chapter, making it easy to read. The point of view varies with each story. Although it is technically a work of fiction, I found this book gave me a lot of food for thought regarding the inner struggles of soldiers in Vietnam, not only during the war itself, but also the demons they faced before and after. If this time in American History fascinates you, or you simply enjoy Historical Fiction, do give this one a try.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 11, 2010

    A book that will stay with you for years...

    When this book was assigned in high school, I was unaware of the amazing treat which I was going to receive. This is a well written series of short stories revolving around a group of soldiers in the Vietnam war. Though the author admits that the stories are based on truth, he always makes the reader question whether the truths of humanity are based in fact or fiction. The characters are believable, and the story flows smoothly despite it's fragmented nature. While many focus on the setting of Vietnam and think of the story being about war, the story is more focused on the men and what makes them who they are. This book is often required reading, but is an enjoyable and life-changing experience.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Powerful thoughts on the experience of war

    This book has a lot to offer for war veterans who seek to find literature which captures the experience of war. However I myself am not a war veteran I am a 20 year old female college student and I fell in love with this book because of how it can capture the truth with fiction. This book is worth reading if you are a person who loves literature and reading about human experiences.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    WOW - Could not put this down!

    'The Things They Carried' is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I just fell in love with Tim O'Brien style of writing. Each chapter was a different story. I had never read anything about wars and I really went into this book knowing nothing about Vietnam. It taught me so much about the war even though it was not about the war perse. I realized how young the men were that were drafted and how frightened they were when they were drafted. It really opened my eyes to how families were affected by this war before and after. I absoluteley loved the story about the soldier shipping his girlriend over to Vietnam. 'The Things They Carried' finds a good balance of comedic wit from the soldiers yet is extremely powerful and dramatic.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 23, 2009

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    The best war novel

    I have read many war novels. This book tops all of them. It is so well written and the stories hold you to each page. A tough book to put down. The stories are realistic with no hero complex added to it to make it sound great and patriotic. It is real and humbles you making you realize the torture soldiers go through on a daily basis. i would like to thank Tim O'Brien for bringing this in the open in his book. I would recommend it to anyone

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2008

    Okay Book, But Not Great

    I think 'The things they carried' started out pretty good and was very interesting. After about the 30th page the book took a major turn for the worse. It went from 'okay' to super slow and boring in my mind. The whole point of me reading a book is to like it and learn from it but it is safe to say that i didn't learn one single thing from this book. I felt as if in every story he would later come out and say it wasn't true which would started to make me believe that this whole book was kind of just like a whole bunch of little stories mixed in with each other. Although some 'Little' stories were more elaborate than others i felt like the majority of them were short and under developed. Overall I would give this book a two star rating because of the depth and the fact that i wasn't that interested in it.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2014

    Wonderfully introspective book!

    The author takes you on a journey of his experiences in Vietnam. The book has a dreaminess about it due to the fact that the author is trying to make sense out of the terrible experiences he has as a soldier. Very interesting and thoughtful book, which I would highly recommend!

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