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The Things They Carried

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

14 out of 18 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 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2013

    Will change your veiw!

    The things they carried is no only a good book but also a book which can really be learned from. Giving a new defenution of courage and soldeirship towards one country. You have got to read this book.

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  • Posted January 27, 2013

    ¿The Things They Carried¿ by Tim O¿Brien re-categorized the gen

    “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien re-categorized the genre of War stories. The artful manner in which he writes each of the stories that comprise the book. “The Things They Carried” is not a book that is a series of consecutive events. Rather it is a book comprised of many interwoven events that seem to blend together and send a real message to the reader. As a young man in 1968, Tim O’Brien was drafted to the military. Tim O’Brien used his imagination and his experiences in life to create “The Things They Carry”. It is a fiction novel, not a novel that is based on fact. “The Things They Carried” carries many themes that the reader understands through each separate stories. Each story provides a lesson of some form whether it is moral or just a simple lesson. The theme of courage vs. Cowardice is present and persistent throughout. The theme is used in each of the stories in order to illustrate fear of shame as being one of the strongest feelings that a human could have. “The Things They Carried” was fiction, however it has a sense of realism that most war stories do not have. It does not focus on the fighting and the killing, but of the morals that are related, and the things that happen to people when they are thrown into such immoral and fearful situations. “The Things They Carried” is a great book filled with many great themes that convey lessons that people can use in everyday life.

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  • Posted December 17, 2012

    The things they carried is probably one of the best fiction book

    The things they carried is probably one of the best fiction book about a war that I have ever read, because there is more to it then just people getting killed left and right. The story humanizes each character such as Tim O'Brien, Lieutenant Cross, Kiowa and more through their personal problems.

    As they March through the Jungles of Vietnam, covered in Booby Traps and disease, sometimes it is not the actual fighting that kills the Men, but the emotional and mental toll that gets them. In one case, Rat Kiley goes crazy after him and Alpha Company march only through the night, sleeping only in the day. Rat couldn't take this anymore and ends up shooting himself in the foot, which gives him a one way ticket to Japan. Then in the Case of Norman Bowker, he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder after the war and commits suicide at the YMCA. I think that through all the enormous physical weight that they carry, all the heavy equipment of guns, ammunition, and rations, it is the personal problems that  makes this book stand out from all the other that I've read, because I have never really found a war book that deals with both the violence of war, and the personal troubles of the men in the war.

    However, the only real flaw that this book has is that it is very jumpy. One moment, he could be in Vietnam, the next minute he is back home twenty years later writing about his experiences in Vietnam. Another thing with this book is that it is part fiction, part non-fiction, so coming in I already knew that the book would be influenced by real events, but portrayed by fictional characters. However, in the book he'll say "Now this is the truth," and in the next chapter, he'll say its not the truth, or its the "story true,". O'Brien purposely does this to make you feel like the soldiers in the war, confused about what is going on, but it makes the book a bit hard to read at certain points.  Overall, I would Recommend this book to people who like war stories, just be prepared to be thrown into the action, like the Men in The Things They Carried.

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  • Posted December 5, 2012

    Heroes every one!

    The Things They Carried certainly did not set out to glorify war. In fact, some of the accounts are pretty graphic. However, it does give the reader a deep understanding of what soldiers went through in Vietnam and how they adapted to cope with the stress and makes your truly appreciate the sacrifices that are made by soldiers every day so that we may enjoy our Freedom.

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  • Posted July 10, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Maybe the most thoughtful and visceral War novel I've read. As w

    Maybe the most thoughtful and visceral War novel I've read. As well written as Matterhorn if not better. So very similar in style to Hemingway's Short Story collection. Must have been an influence on his style. Overall one that will stick with me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2012

    Excellent!

    Very good short story about Viet Nam War. I like first hand accounts of true stories. It kept me interested throughout the book. Very enjoyable.

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  • Posted February 29, 2012

    Good Read

    This book reads like a work of non-fiction, making you forget that it is a piece of fiction. Most of the things explained sound like they could've actually happened during the war, and probably really did at some point.

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  • Posted January 23, 2012

    A good book

    This was a quick, intense read. I loved the beginning, but had some trouble following the stories and keeping them straight(which I assume was part of the point of the writing style). All things considered, it's well worth your time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2011

    The things they carried by tim o'brian

    The book is about a marine solider who is away from his "lover" back home and he keeps all of his "non love letters" in the botom of his rucksack in his foxhole.

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  • Posted October 24, 2011

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    I Also Recommend:

    Beautifully written

    This book was a beautiful account of one man's view of the war he fought in, the Vietnam War, as well as the people he fought alongside and against. O'Brien gives us lots to think about, covering many controversial topics in a way that can only be descibed as masterful in this brilliant book. There aren't many people who could have written a beautiful war story, but O'Brien did it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2011

    Great book! Very deep!

    The things they carried was a book that makes you think and gives you a very personal view of the Vietnam War.This book was written by a man that was in the Vietnam war and his along several of his companions through out the war and how it still effected them after the war ended. The major message of this book was that even if something over all was hard and something that you didn't believe in, there are memories that you would never want to let go of. What I liked about this book was how personal it was. The author really mad me feel like I was walking right with him experiencing everything with him. One thing I wasn't a fan of was I did get confused as to who was talking and keeping all of the characters strait. There were quite a few and depending on the experience being shared they would effect different people differently. It was a very realist way to write but I did have to go back and remind myself who the character was. This way a great book for people that want a better understanding of war and how it effects all people differently. Tim O'Brien has many other books most of which are about his time in Vietnam or set it that time period. Over all an excellent story and very entertaining.

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  • Posted August 10, 2011

    Great read

    Still confused about what, if any of it was true but loved it all the same.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2011

    Broke the stereotype of war stories

    I had to read this book for my English class and I thought it would be the typical college agenda about how war is bad and peace is the only answer in every situation. But it wasn't and I'm almost 100% positive that's why I liked this book. It seemed Tim (the main character) was looking back on the war he didn't want to fight in originally, he tried to escape to Canada so he wouldn't have to go to war, but when he finally went and realized he had a family within his platoon he didn't think the war was so bad. The literal and emphasized concepts are really intriguing, I wouldn't have noticed them if I hadn't been forced to write a report on them. Something that makes this book really interesting is I work with a lot of Vietnam vets and they found this book pretty close to what it was like during the war. ( Not the crazy things, but the brotherhood, jungle, towns, and people.)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2011

    Recommended for people who like war stories

    Personally, "Things They Carried" was a very interesting book, filled with a lot of facts about war and some of the things that soldiers would bring with them to war. I think that this book is intended for anyone who finds war interesting, and exciting. Also, it could be meant for someone to read who likes history, considering there is a lot of history involved in the book. The title, I think is a great title because the title, is exactly on what the book is about, the things in which soldiers carried. Not to give anything away about the ending of the book, but the ending was a very good. The book ends in a saying, in which the author used throughout the story, making it a very meaningful and thoughtful ending. If I shared the most exciting part of the novel, it would really give away the best part in the novel, so in order to hear it, someone will have to read it, however it has to do with how the story ends. The author's style in the book is very presently written. It's not one of the books that really makes you think, the information in the story is given to you, but yet it is still a pretty "deep" read.

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  • Posted April 6, 2011

    Its okay

    I reccomend that you read this novel. It is a very descriptive account of the vietnam war. It shows what the soldiers had to go through both mentally and physically. The first few chapters become a little repettive and drag on but after that the story flows very well. It shows the effects of the war on the soldiers and how the memory lived with them forever. Because the main character is the same person as the author you seem to forget that it is a fictional story. But that is the whole premise of the book that what we percieve to be true and what is actually true does not matter. All that matters is that the feeling behind the story is true and that a real feeling is passed on the reader.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2011

    A very good read!

    I was assigned to read The Things They Carried in my junior year english class. I really enjoyed reading this novel. The first chapter started out very slow but as I read more and more into it I started to understand and enjoy what Tim O'Brien was writing. The short stories kept me focused and engaged in reading. They were so interesting and the language he used captivated me. I was able to read through this book easily and quickly. It was not necessarily an easy read. At times, Tim O'Brien was very confusing, but overall I recommend this book if you want a good book to read.

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