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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

2 out of 2 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 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.

    2 out of 2 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 8, 2013

    The things they carried by Tim O'Brien is a realistic fiction bo

    The things they carried by Tim O'Brien is a realistic fiction book, it is a story on his life as a solider during the Vietnam war and tells his gripping experiences of war in great detail. This book is not in a series and stands alone as another one of Tim O'Brien's great pieces of literature. 
           This book shares stories of war that keep you on the edge of your seat, you learn about the horror and beauty of Vietnam and what life is like as a solider. The story shares deep friendships that he gained in Vietnam, like Rat Kiley, Kiowa, Henry Dobbins, and many others. 
           There are many things I like about this book, it portrays the Vietnam war in a very unique way from a veterans perspective. One dislike I have is that the reading difficulty increases the farther you go in the story. But over all I really like this book and i enjoyed ready it. 
           Tim O'Brien's writing style uses a lot of imagery and detail. He uses this to give the reader a visual of what the story he is telling would be like if you we're really there.
           Overall I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys war stories and an overall interesting book to read.   

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2013

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  • Posted December 17, 2012

    The Things They Carried is a great book on the realities of war.

    The Things They Carried is a great book on the realities of war. O'Brien is part of a group of soldiers from the Alpha Company in the Vietnam War. Although, it's fiction O'Brien did go to the Vietnam War and he discusses some of the emotional baggage the soldiers carry throughout the book. There's a variety of characters whom represent different people during the war that he encounters. Some of the main characters will be Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Mitchell Sanders, Ted Lavender, Curt Lemon, Rat Kiley, Kiowa and more who make part of the Alpha Company. Throughout the story, you will learn to love or hate some of the characters that individually progress the plot and make you question the purpose of their stories.
    I really liked it, although, it was confusing since the author would jump around from past and present. Sometimes I’d question why these stories were being told, but it unravels the purpose of the entire book within each chapter. What stands out in my mind is the sense of how war changes a person and as an example of the drastic differences the war affects a person. For example, Mary Anne is a character from a story within the book that will be an example of the evolvement occuring among the other soldiers when they were drafted.
    I recommend this book to anyone who likes learning about war and the aspects that one does not see or feel because we have not been there. It is fiction, but the book reveals how the war affects the people who have been there and experienced it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2012

    Fairly interesting book

    A case study best understood by those who have experienced the intense violence of war. Really hard to understand if you have not experienced war. O'Brien tries to explain to us civilians what war is and successes somewhat, however it does not come close to actually experiencing war.

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  • Posted June 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Different

    While I did like this book, I find myself to be a bit torn on my true feelings for the story. In total, there isn't one running story throughout the book - it goes back and forth between the writer's life and viewpoint on things he lived in Vietnam and stories of his fellow soldiers' experiences. Overall, I enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it to war buffs and readers that thoroughly enjoy autobiographies. However, it is not for the faint of heart, that's for certain - some scenes described are very graphic, which should be expected for this type of story.

    This is the first non-fiction work I have read about Vietnam, and, through this story, I found a very different side to the war and a very different way of thinking and of life the soldiers adapted in order to just get through the day. I think that perspective is what I enjoyed the most.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2008

    Good at times, but overall not my type of book.

    The book, The Things They Carried, portrays the story of Alpha Company and the men that compose it. It vibrantly illustrates the effects war has on the soldiers who fight it, and how the things they carry reflect these effects. The storytelling is told very well, but the consistent randomness of the storyline really deterred my interest. However, there are some noteworthy chapters such as, 'Field Trip' and 'The Lives of the Dead', to name a few. I also agreed with the author's belief about storytelling, and how the power of storytelling can keep memories and loved ones alive. In the end though, the way the story is told really ruined the book for me, and shattered all interest in it. I know the book is meant to describe the randomness/craziness of war, hence the random story order, but in my opinion it just doesn't work when your reading the book. For these reasons, I give this book a mediocre rating.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2007

    A review by R. Kozina

    The Things They Carried is a very entertaining story about the Vietnam War and those who fought in it. This book is about a platoon of men in Vietnam and is told through the eyes of the author himself, Tim O¿Brien. O¿Brien writes this story in a perplexing manner he writes each chapter as its own story, and it almost doesn¿t seem as though he connects the chapter properly, but somehow the connection is made. Also he tells stories and then in another chapter admits to the story¿s falsity, making it difficult to believe anything he says, and after doing research on O¿Brien, I found out that he never went to Canada to avoid the draft and that he doesn¿t even have a daughter. But it has to be expected because it is a fiction book, and the author explains himself somewhat in the chapter ¿How to Tell a True War Story.¿ In that chapter O¿Brien tells of Rat Kiley, a character in the book who tells false stories, when in reality O¿Brien himself is the liar in the story. All in all, this book is entertaining but not fantastic and definitely not worthy of its New York Times Best Seller award. I definitely would not have ever read this book had it not been for my high school making me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2007

    It didn't carry me

    Despite having won many awards, The Things They Carried did not capture or keep my complete attention to his stories. O¿Brien writes about some events that happened, or did not happen, in Vietnam, but he jumps around through time and does not keep his ideas organized, which lends to some confusion while reading. The beginning chapter, `The Things They Carried¿, pulled me in with interesting facts about all the gear soldiers have to carry, but after such an interesting chapter, O¿Brien poorly chooses to follow up with completely different and non-sequential chapters like `Enemies¿, and `Friends¿ which branch off into short stories of other¿s war experiences . As a veteran looking back on his life, I think that O¿Brien has had a difficult time coping with what happened in Vietnam, like saying he killed the man in My Khe, but two chapters later admits that he lied about killing him. Although creating false stories sparked some intrigue in me, I think that O¿Brien should not have lied about Norman Bowker and what happened on the Song Tra Bong River, especially knowing what Norman did to himself. A tough read, The Things They Carried, certainly provides the reader with a soldier¿s perspective of the horrific reality of war.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2006

    Emotion Carried Through!!!!!!

    I liked this novel alright from front to back cover. At times this book put me to sllep literally and then sometimes it keep me really entertained and interested. Compared to other war novels I've read this one isn't the bestbut far from the worse. If you like emotional stories read this if you want A war book that's violent non-stop like I do don't read this book!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2006

    Ok but not Great

    In ¿The Things They Carried¿ the author Tim O¿Brien portrays the real life of a Vietnam veteran. Throughout the story he makes you feel what he felt during those moments. It was very fascinating how he could put you in the head of one of the characters and watching through his eyes. During this novel I enjoyed the unique style of O¿Brien describing through feelings rather than actual facts. He explains it in one of the chapters how it gives you the perspective of what he went through rather than what he remembered from that scene. What I enjoyed most was how he didn¿t tell it chronologically but he described it as if he was recalling the stories and telling you first hand. In the novel he shows how each soldier has his own certain piece of home with him. Whether it is Kiowa with his Bible or Norman Bowker carrying a Diary all of these men are shown to try to remember what they have at home in a foreign land. Overall I would recommend for everyone to read this novel. It is a story that people can relate to if you have the same understanding or if you are just like me, be able to get inside the head for a little while and feel what it is like to be in Vietnam. This novel showed me how to look at things differently, and see situations from different perspectives. There are many scenes where O¿Brien would show a scene through one persons viewpoint then later on in the chapter show us the exact situation except through another soldiers view of what happened. I would recommend everyone to read this story and take as much from it as possible.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2005

    I encourage anyone to read this mastermiece.

    There are very few war stories written like 'The things they carried'. From hardships of the Vietman war, to the after effect that this time of terror had on the men that fought on the front line. The graphic language is excelent and makes it impossible to put the book down. O'Brien should be credited as one of the best war story writers of our time. I recommend this book to anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2003

    Good but depressing

    This book was very descriptive and give's the reader a good idea about what it was like in the war. That was all very good but O'Brian kept saying something and then taking it back. It was all very confussing. The story was also fairly depressing and I didn't like reading it at sometimes. In all, it was a very good peice of literature, well written and convayed but I didn't like it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2003

    Interisting, but not great

    The book was really interesting in some parts, but it was a bit hard to follow in some parts. He would say something was a true war story, and then say it wasn't. I also thought the end was a little bizzare, because it didn't really seem to fit. I woudn't of picked this book if it wasn't required reading. Also, if reading this story, don't expect to be filled with joy afterwards. It is depressing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2003

    I like books

    This book is good, but I have only read the first story. I look forward to many exciting stories in the coming pages, as I have to read them for English.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2002

    Interesting...to a point

    Tim O'Brien does a wonderful job with descriptions, and some of the individual stories in the book were touching. However, I felt cheated in the end, when he started mumbling about how he is a writer and he seemed unclear as to what was real and not real, and he just lost me. I would not recommend this book to a Vietnam veteran because I don't think all of O'Brien's talk about objecting to the war and beinga coward for going would sit well for folks who nearly gave their lives in duty to their country and who lost those close to them as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2002

    it was alright

    this book was good and interesting but there was just something missing. some of the stories didnt fit in and towards the end it got real dull. i love war stories and im glad it gives people a different perspective on war but this isnt a book i recommend reading just for fun. its more of an assigned reading type than pleasure book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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