The Things They Carried

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Overview

One of the first questions people ask about The Things They Carried is this: Is it a novel, or a collection of short stories? The title page refers to the book simply as "a work of fiction," defying the conscientious reader's need to categorize this masterpiece. It is both: a collection of interrelated short pieces which ultimately reads with the dramatic force and tension of a novel. Yet each one of the twenty-two short pieces is written with ...
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The Things They Carried

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Overview

One of the first questions people ask about The Things They Carried is this: Is it a novel, or a collection of short stories? The title page refers to the book simply as "a work of fiction," defying the conscientious reader's need to categorize this masterpiece. It is both: a collection of interrelated short pieces which ultimately reads with the dramatic force and tension of a novel. Yet each one of the twenty-two short pieces is written with such care, emotional content, and prosaic precision that it could stand on its own.

The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and of course, the character Tim O'Brien who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three. They battle the enemy (or maybe more the idea of the enemy), and occasionally each other. In their relationships we see their isolation and loneliness, their rage and fear. They miss their families, their girlfriends and buddies; they miss the lives they left back home. Yet they find sympathy and kindness for strangers (the old man who leads them unscathed through the mine field, the girl who grieves while she dances), and love for each other, because in Vietnam they are the only family they have. We hear the voices of the men and build images upon their dialogue. The way they tell stories about others, we hear them telling stories about themselves.

With the creative verve of the greatest fiction and the intimacy of a searing autobiography, The Things They Carried  is a testament to the men who risked their lives in America's most controversial war.It is also a mirror held up to the frailty of humanity. Ultimately The Things They Carried and its myriad protagonists call to order the courage, determination, and luck we all need to survive.

In 1979, Tim O'Brien's Going After Cacciato -- a novel about the Vietnam War -- won the National Book Award. In this, his second work of fiction about Vietnam, O'Brien's unique artistic vision is again clearly demonstrated. Neither a novel nor a short story collection, it is an arc of fictional episodes, taking place in the childhoods of its characters, in the jungles of Vietnam and back home in America two decades later.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
"Vietnam was full of strange stories, some improbable, some well beyond that, but the stories that will last forever are those that swirl back and forth across the border between trivial and bedlam." First published in 1979, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried is an unparalleled Vietnam testament, a classic study of men at war that brilliantly -- and painfully --illuminates the capacity, and the limits, of the human heart and soul. Focusing on the members of a single platoon (one of whom happens to be a 21-year-old grunt named Tim O'Brien) the 22 interconnected stories of this collection catalogue not only the things they carried into battle -- M-16s, grenade launchers, candy, Kool-Aid, and cigarettes -- but more importantly, the things they carried inside, and the nightmares they carried home.
New York Times Books of the Century
...[B]elongs high on the list of best fiction about any war....crystallizes the Vietnam experience for everyone [and] exposes the nature of all war stories.
Christopher Tuplin
This is a collection of stories about American soldiers in Vietnam by the author of Going After Cacciato. All of the stories "deal with a single platoon, one of whose members is a character named Tim O'Brien. Some stories are about [their] wartime experiences....Others are about a 43-year-old writer—again, the fictional character Tim O'Brien—remembering his platoon's experiences and writing war stories (and remembering writing stories) about them. —The New York Times Book Review
Library Journal
Winner of a National Book Award in 1979 for Going After Cacciato, O'Brien again shows his literary stuff with this brilliant collection of short stories, many of which have won literary recognition (several appeared in O. Henry Awards' collections and Best American Short Stories). Each of the 22 tales relates the exploits and personalities of a fictional platoon of American soldiers in Vietnam. An acutely painful reading experience, this collection should be read as a book and not a mere selection of stories reprinted from magazines. Not since Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five has the American soldier been portrayed with such poignance and sincerity.-- Mark Annichiarico,
Library Journal
Winner of a National Book Award in 1979 for Going After Cacciato, O'Brien again shows his literary stuff with this brilliant collection of short stories, many of which have won literary recognition (several appeared in O. Henry Awards' collections and Best American Short Stories). Each of the 22 tales relates the exploits and personalities of a fictional platoon of American soldiers in Vietnam. An acutely painful reading experience, this collection should be read as a book and not a mere selection of stories reprinted from magazines. Not since Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five has the American soldier been portrayed with such poignance and sincerity.-- Mark Annichiarico,
School Library Journal
A series of stories about the Vietnam experience, based on the author's recollections. O'Brien begins by sharing the talismans and treasures his select small band of young soldiers carry into battle. The tales, ranging from a paragraph to 20 or so pages, reveal one truth after another. Sometimes the author tells the same story from different points of view, revealing the lingering, sometimes consuming, effect war leaves on the soul. In the end, readers are left with a mental and emotional sphere of mirrors, each reflecting a speck of truth about the things men carry into and out of war. -- Barbara Hawkins, West Potomac High, Fairfax County, Virginia
Christopher Tuplin
This is a collection of stories about American soldiers in Vietnam by the author of Going After Cacciato. All of the stories "deal with a single platoon, one of whose members is a character named Tim O'Brien. Some stories are about [their] wartime experiences....Others are about a 43-year-old writer--again, the fictional character Tim O'Brien--remembering his platoon's experiences and writing war stories (and remembering writing stories) about them. -- The New York Times Book Review
New York Times Books of the Century
...[B]elongs high on the list of best fiction about any war....crystallizes the Vietnam experience for everyone [and] exposes the nature of all war stories.
From the Publisher
"The best of these stories—and none is written with less than the sharp edge of honed vision—are memory and prophecy. These tell us not where we were but where we are, and perhaps where we will be. . . . It is an ultimate, indelible image of war in our time, and in time to come"—Los Angeles Times

"The Things They Carried is as good as any piece of literature can get . . . It is controlled and wild, deep and tough, perceptive and shrewd."—Chicago Sun Times

"In prose that combines the sharp, unsentimental rhythms of Hemingway with gentler, more lyrical descriptions, Mr. O'Brien gives the reader a shockingly visceral sense of what it felt like to tramp through a booby-trapped jungle, carrying 20 pounds of supplies, 14 pounds of ammunition, along with radios, machine guns, assault rifles and grenades. . . . With 'The Things They Carried, Mr. O'Brien has written a vital, important book—a book that matters not only to the reader interested in Vietnam, but to anyone interested in the craft of writing as well."—Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

"[B]elongs high on the list of best fiction about any war....crystallizes the Vietnam experience for everyone [and] exposes the nature of all war stories."—New York Times, "Books of the Century"

"With The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien adds his second title to the short list of essential fiction about Vietnam. . . . [H]e captures the war's pulsating rhythms and nerve-racking dangers. But he goes much further. By moving beyond the horror of the fighting to examine with sensitivity and insight the nature of courage and fear, by questioning the role that imagination plays in helping to form our memories and our own versions of truth, he places The Things They Carried high up on the list of best fiction about any war."—New York Times Book Review

"When Going After Cacciato appeared out of nowhere to win the 1979 National Book Award, it seemed to many, myself included, that no finer fiction had, as of then, been written in the closing half of the 20th century—or was likely to be in the remaining years to come. The Things They Carried disposes of that prediction. . . . Tim O'Brien is the best American writer of his generation."—San Francisco Examiner

“The integrity of a novel and the immediacy of an autobiography . . . O’Brien’s absorbing narrative moves in circles; events are recalled and retold again and again, giving us a deep sense of the fluidity of truth and the dance of memory.”—The New Yorker

"Rendered with an evocative, quiet precision, not equaled in the imaginitive literature of the American war in Vietnam. It is as though a Thucydides had descended from grand politique and strategy to calm dissection of the quotidian efforts of war. . . . O'Brien has it just right."—Washington Post

"Powerful . . . Composed in the same lean, vigorous style as his earlier books, The Things They Carried adds up to a captivating account of the experiences of an infantry company in Vietnam. . . . Evocative and haunting, the raw force of confession."—Wall Street Journal

"O'Brien has written a book so searing and immediate you can almost hear the choppers in the background. Drenched in irony and purple-haze napalm, the Vietnam narrative has almost been forced to produce a new kind of war literature. The Things They Carried is an extraordinary contribution to that class of fiction. . . . O'Brien's passion and memory may have been his torment all these years, but they have also been his gift. . . . The Things They Carried leaves third-degree burns. Between its rhythmic brilliance and its exquisite rendering of memory—the slant of sunlight in the midst of war, the look on a man's face as he steps on a mine—this is prose headed for the nerve center of what was Vietnam."—The Boston Globe

"Simply marvelous ... A striking sequence of stories that twist and turn and bounce off each other . . . O'Brien has invented a tone of voice precisely suited to this war: it conveys a risky load of sentiment kept in check by both a chaste prose and a fair amount of comedy. . . . Wars seldom produce good short stories, but two or three of these seem as good as any short stories written about any war. . . . Immensely affecting."—Newsweek

"The Things They Carried is as good as any piece of literature can get. . . . The line between fiction and fact is beautifully, permanently blurred. It is the perfect approach to this sort of material, and O'Brien does it with vast skill and grace. ... It is controlled and wild, deep and tough, perceptive and shrewd. I salute the man who wrote it."—Chicago Sun-Times

"Consummate artistry ... A strongly unified book, a series of glimpses, through different facets, of a single, mysterious, deadly stone . . . O'Brien blends diverse incidents, voices, and genres, indelibly rendering the nightmarish impact of the Vietnam experience."—Andy Solomon, Philadelphia Inquirer

"O'Brien has brought us another remarkable piece of work . . . The stories have a specificity of observed physical detail that makes them seem a model of the realist's art. . . . What finally distinguishes The Things They Carried is O'Brien's understanding of the nature of memory."—Miami Herald

"This is writing so powerful that it steals your breath. ... It perfectly captures the moral confusion that is the legacy of the Vietnam War. . . . The Things They Carried is about more than war, of course. It is about the human heart and emotional baggage and loyalty and love. It is about the difference between 'truth' and 'reality.' It is about death—and life. It is successful on every level."—Milwaukee Journal

"O'Brien's stunning new book of linked stories, The Things They Carried, is about the power of the imagination. . . . I've read all five of O'Brien's books with admiration that sometimes verges on awe. Nobody else can make me feel, as his three Vietnam books have, what I imagine to have been the reality of that war."—USA Today

"I've got to make you read this book. ... A certain panic arises in me. In trying to review a book as precious as The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, there is the nightmare fear of saying the wrong thing—of not getting the book's wonder across to you fairly-and of sounding merely zealous, fanatical, and hence to be dismissed. If I can't get you to go out and buy this book, then I've failed you. ... In a world filled too often with numbness, or shifting values, these stories shine in a strange and opposite direction, moving against the flow, illuminating life's wonder, life's tenuousness, life's importance."—Rick Bass, Dallas Morning News

"O'Brien has unmistakably forged one of the most persuasive works of any kind to arise out of any war."—Hartford Courant

"O'Brien succeeds as well as any writer in conveying the free-fall sensation of fear and the surrealism of combat."
—Time

"It's a marvelous and chilling book, and something totally new in fiction. A dramatic redefinition of fiction itself, maybe. It will probably be a bestseller and a movie, and deserves to be. It will be nominated for prizes, but I wonder if any prize will do it justice. Maybe a silver star for telling the truth that never happened, passionately, gracefully."—Charlotte Observer

"The Things They Carried is more than 'another' book about Vietnam. ... It is a master stroke of form and imagery. . . . The Things They Carried is about life, about men who fought and die, about buddies, and about a lost innocence that might be recaptured through the memory of stories. O'Brien tells us these stories because he must. He tells them as they have never been told before. ... If Cacciato was the book about Vietnam, then this is the book about surviving it."—Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Throughout, it is incredibly ordinary, human stuff-that's why this book is extra-ordinary. . . . Each story resonates with its predecessors, yet stands alone. The soft blurs with the hard. The gore and terror of Vietnam jungle warfare accumulate into an enormous mass."—Houston Chronicle

"Even more than Cacciato, The Things They Carried is virtually impossible to summarize in conventional terms. If anything, it is a better book. . . . The novel is held together by two things: the haunting clarity of O'Brien's prose and the intensity of his focus. . . . O'Brien's stories are like nobody else's. His blend of poetic realism and comic fantasy remains unique. ... In short, critics really can't account for O'Brien at all. At least in part that's because his Vietnam stories are really about the yearning for peace—aimed at human understanding rather than some 'definitive' understanding of the war. . . . Just by imagining stories that never happened, and embroidering upon some that did, O'Brien can bring it all back. He can feel the terror and the sorrow and the crazy, jagged laughter. He can bring the dead back to life. And bring back the dreaming, too."—Entertainment Weekly

"Brilliant. . . O'Brien again shows his literary stuff. . . . An acutely painful reading experience, this collection should be read as a book and not a mere collection of stories. Not since Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five has the American soldier been portrayed with such poignance and sincerity."—Library Journal

"One hell of a book . . . You'll rarely read anything as real as this."—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried carries not only the soldiers' intangible burdens-grief, terror, love, longing—but also the weight of memory, the terrible gravity of guilt. It carries them, though, with a lovely, stirring grace, because it is as much about the redemptive power of stories as it is about Vietnam."—Orlando Sentinel

"The author of the National Book Award-winning Going After Cacciato offers us fiction in a unique form: a kind of 'faction' presented as a collection of related stories that have the cumulative effect of a unified novel. . . .The prose ranges from staccato soldierly thoughts to raw depictions of violent death to intense personal ruminations by the author that don't appear to be fictional at all. Just when you thought there was nothing left to say about the Vietnam experience . . . there's plenty."—Booklist

"Astonishing . . . Richly wrought and filled with war's paradoxes, The Things They Carried will reward a second, or even a third, reading. . . . His ambitious, modernistic fable, Going After Cacciato, raised the American war novel to new artistic realms. The Things They Carried is also astonishing-in a whole new way."—Boston Sunday Herald

"Eloquent... In The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien expertly fires off tracer rounds, illuminating the art of war in all its horrible and fascinating complexity, detailing the mad and the mundane. . . . The Things They Carried joins the work of Crane and Hemingway and Mailer as great war literature."—Tampa Tribune & Times

"The Things They Carried is distinguished by virtue of the novelty and complexity of its presentation. Mr. O'Brien is a superb prose stylist, perhaps the best among Vietnam War novelists. . . . The imaginative retelling of the war is just as real as the war itself, maybe more so, and experiencing these narratives can be powerfully cathartic for writer and reader alike."—Atlanta Journal & Constitution

"The search for the great American novel will never end, but it gets a step closer to realization with The Things They Carried by Tim O' Brien."—Detroit Free Press

"His language is simple—no tricks, no phony subtlety, no 'artistic' twists. The writing is as clear as one of his northern Minnesota lakes. . . . The Things They Carried charts out a lot of emotional territory, gripping the reader from beginning to end. This is one of those books you should read. It is also one of those books you'll be glad you did. . . . This book—and these lives—will live for a long time."—Milwaukee Sentinel

"There have been movies. And plays. And books. But there has been nothing like Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. . . . O'Brien's vision is unique. . . . All of us, by holding O'Brien's stories in our hands, can approach Vietnam and truth."—San Diego Union

"His characters and his situations are unique and ring true to the point of tears. His prose is simply magnificent. . . . Unforgettable ."—Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A powerful yet lyrical work of fiction."—The Associated Press

"O'Brien's new master work. .. . Go out and get this book and read it. Read it slowly, and let O'Brien's masterful storytelling and his eloquent philosophizing about the nature of war wash over you. . . . The Things They Carried is a major work of literary imagination."—The Veteran

"In The Things They Carried, a matchlessly literary book, O'Brien casts away any least pretense and writes straight from the heart. . . . The Things They Carried is an accomplished, gentle, lovely book."—Kansas City Star

"O'Brien's meditations—on war and memory, on darkness and light—suffuse the entire work with a kind of poetic form, making for a highly original, fully realized novel. . . . Beautifully honest . . . The book is persuasive in its desperate hope that stories can save us."—Publishers Weekly

"The best of these stories—and none is written with less than the sharp edge of honed vision—are memory and prophecy. These tell us not where we were but where we are, and perhaps where we will be. . . . It is an ultimate, indelible image of war in our time, and in time to come"
Los Angeles Times
 
"The Things They Carried is as good as any piece of literature can get . . . It is controlled and wild, deep and tough, perceptive and shrewd."
Chicago Sun Times

 
"In prose that combines the sharp, unsentimental rhythms of Hemingway with gentler, more lyrical descriptions, Mr. O'Brien gives the reader a shockingly visceral sense of what it felt like to tramp through a booby-trapped jungle, carrying 20 pounds of supplies, 14 pounds of ammunition, along with radios, machine guns, assault rifles and grenades. . . . With 'The Things They Carried, Mr. O'Brien has written a vital, important book—a book that matters not only to the reader interested in Vietnam, but to anyone interested in the craft of writing as well."
—Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

 

"[B]elongs high on the list of best fictio about any war....crystallizes the Vietnam experience for everyone [and] exposes the nature of all war stories."
New York Times, "Books of the Century"
 
"With The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien adds his second title to the short list of essential fiction about Vietnam. . . . [H]e captures the war's pulsating rhythms and nerve-racking dangers. But he goes much further. By moving beyond the horror of the fighting to examine with sensitivity and insight the nature of courage and fear, by questioning the role that imagination plays in helping to form our memories and our own versions of truth, he places The Things They Carried high up on the list of best fiction about any war."
New York Times Book Review
 
"When Going After Cacciato appeared out of nowhere to win the 1979 National Book Award, it seemed to many, myself included, that no finer fiction had, as of then, been written in the closing half of the 20th century—or was likely to be in the remaining years to come. The Things They Carried disposes of that prediction. . . . Tim O'Brien is the best American writer of his generation."
San Francisco Examiner
 

“The integrity of a novel and the immediacy of an autobiography . . . O’Brien’s absorbing narrative moves in circles; events are recalled and retold again and again, giving us a deep sense of the fluidity of truth and the dance of memory.”
—The New Yorker
 
"Rendered with an evocative, quiet precision, not equaled in the imaginitive literature of the American war in Vietnam. It is as though a Thucydides had descended from grand politique and strategy to calm dissection of the quotidian efforts of war. . . . O'Brien has it just right."
Washington Post
 
"Powerful . . . Composed in the same lean, vigorous style as his earlier books, The Things They Carried adds up to a captivating account of the experiences of an infantry company in Vietnam. . . . Evocative and haunting, the raw force of confession."
Wall Street Journal

 
"O'Brien has written a book so searing and immediate you can almost hear the choppers in the background. Drenched in irony and purple-haze napalm, the Vietnam narrative has almost been forced to produce a new kind of war literature. The Things They Carried is an extraordinary contribution to that class of fiction. . . . O'Brien's passion and memory may have been his torment all these years, but they have also been his gift. . . . The Things They Carried leaves third-degree burns. Between its rhythmic brilliance and its exquisite rendering of memory—the slant of sunlight in the midst of war, the look on a man's face as he steps on a mine—this is prose headed for the nerve center of what was Vietnam."
The Boston Globe
 

"Simply marvelous ... A striking sequence of stories that twist and turn and bounce off each other . . . O'Brien has invented a tone of voice precisely suited to this war: it conveys a risky load of sentiment kept in check by both a chaste prose and a fair amount of comedy. . . . Wars seldom produce good short stories, but two or three of these seem as good as any short stories written about any war. . . . Immensely affecting."
Newsweek
 

"The Things They Carried is as good as any piece of literature can get. . . . The line between fiction and fact is beautifully, permanently blurred. It is the perfect approach to this sort of material, and O'Brien does it with vast skill and grace. ... It is controlled and wild, deep and tough, perceptive and shrewd. I salute the man who wrote it."
Chicago Sun-Times
 

"Consummate artistry ... A strongly unified book, a series of glimpses, through different facets, of a single, mysterious, deadly stone . . . O'Brien blends diverse incidents, voices, and genres, indelibly rendering the nightmarish impact of the Vietnam experience."
—Andy Solomon, Philadelphia Inquirer
 
"O'Brien has brought us another remarkable piece of work . . . The stories have a specificity of observed physical detail that makes them seem a model of the realist's art. . . . What finally distinguishes The Things They Carried is O'Brien's understanding of the nature of memory."
Miami Herald
 
"This is writing so powerful that it steals your breath. ... It perfectly captures the moral confusion that is the legacy of the Vietnam War. . . . The Things They Carried is about more than war, of course. It is about the human heart and emotional baggage and loyalty and love. It is about the difference between 'truth' and 'reality.' It is about death—and life. It is successful on every level."
Milwaukee Journal
 
"O'Brien's stunning new book of linked stories, The Things They Carried, is about the power of the imagination. . . . I've read all five of O'Brien's books with admiration that sometimes verges on awe. Nobody else can make me feel, as his three Vietnam books have, what I imagine to have been the reality of that war."
USA Today
 
"I've got to make you read this book. ... A certain panic arises in me. In trying to review a book as precious as The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, there is the nightmare fear of saying the wrong thing—of not getting the book's wonder across to you fairly-and of sounding merely zealous, fanatical, and hence to be dismissed. If I can't get you to go out and buy this book, then I've failed you. ... In a world filled too often with numbness, or shifting values, these stories shine in a strange and opposite direction, moving against the flow, illuminating life's wonder, life's tenuousness, life's importance."
—Rick Bass, Dallas Morning News
 
"O'Brien has unmistakably forged one of the most persuasive works of any kind to arise out of any war."
—Hartford Courant
 
"O'Brien succeeds as well as any writer in conveying the free-fall sensation of fear and the surrealism of combat."
—Time
 
"It's a marvelous and chilling book, and something totally new in fiction. A dramatic redefinition of fiction itself, maybe. It will probably be a bestseller and a movie, and deserves to be. It will be nominated for prizes, but I wonder if any prize will do it justice. Maybe a silver star for telling the truth that never happened, passionately, gracefully."
Charlotte Observer
 
"The Things They Carried is more than 'another' book about Vietnam. ... It is a master stroke of form and imagery. . . . The Things They Carried is about life, about men who fought and die, about buddies, and about a lost innocence that might be recaptured through the memory of stories. O'Brien tells us these stories because he must. He tells them as they have never been told before. ... If Cacciato was the book about Vietnam, then this is the book about surviving it."—Richmond Times-Dispatch
 
"Throughout, it is incredibly ordinary, human stuff-that's why this book is extra-ordinary. . . . Each story resonates with its predecessors, yet stands alone. The soft blurs with the hard. The gore and terror of Vietnam jungle warfare accumulate into an enormous mass."
Houston Chronicle
 
"Even more than Cacciato, The Things They Carried is virtually impossible to summarize in conventional terms. If anything, it is a better book. . . . The novel is held together by two things: the haunting clarity of O'Brien's prose and the intensity of his focus. . . . O'Brien's stories are like nobody else's. His blend of poetic realism and comic fantasy remains unique. ... In short, critics really can't account for O'Brien at all. At least in part that's because his Vietnam stories are really about the yearning for peace—aimed at human understanding rather than some 'definitive' understanding of the war. . . . Just by imagining stories that never happened, and embroidering upon some that did, O'Brien can bring it all back. He can feel the terror and the sorrow and the crazy, jagged laughter. He can bring the dead back to life. And bring back the dreaming, too."
Entertainment Weekly
 

"Brilliant. . . O'Brien again shows his literary stuff. . . . An acutely painful reading experience, this collection should be read as a book and not a mere collection of stories. Not since Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five has the American soldier been portrayed with such poignance and sincerity."
Library Journal
 
"One hell of a book . . . You'll rarely read anything as real as this."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
 
"Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried carries not only the soldiers' intangible burdens-grief, terror, love, longing—but also the weight of memory, the terrible gravity of guilt. It carries them, though, with a lovely, stirring grace, because it is as much about the redemptive power of stories as it is about Vietnam."
Orlando Sentinel
 
"The author of the National Book Award-winning Going After Cacciato offers us fiction in a unique form: a kind of 'faction' presented as a collection of related stories that have the cumulative effect of a unified novel. . . .The prose ranges from staccato soldierly thoughts to raw depictions of violent death to intense personal ruminations by the author that don't appear to be fictional at all. Just when you thought there was nothing left to say about the Vietnam experience . . . there's plenty."
Booklist
 
"Astonishing . . . Richly wrought and filled with war's paradoxes, The Things They Carried will reward a second, or even a third, reading. . . . His ambitious, modernistic fable, Going After Cacciato, raised the American war novel to new artistic realms. The Things They Carried is also astonishing-in a whole new way."
Boston Sunday Herald
 
"Eloquent... In The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien expertly fires off tracer rounds, illuminating the art of war in all its horrible and fascinating complexity, detailing the mad and the mundane. . . . The Things They Carried joins the work of Crane and Hemingway and Mailer as great war literature."
Tampa Tribune & Times
 
"The Things They Carried is distinguished by virtue of the novelty and complexity of its presentation. Mr. O'Brien is a superb prose stylist, perhaps the best among Vietnam War novelists. . . . The imaginative retelling of the war is just as real as the war itself, maybe more so, and experiencing these narratives can be powerfully cathartic for writer and reader alike."
Atlanta Journal & Constitution
 
"The search for the great American novel will never end, but it gets a step closer to realization with The Things They Carried by Tim O' Brien."
Detroit Free Press
 
"His language is simple—no tricks, no phony subtlety, no 'artistic' twists. The writing is as clear as one of his northern Minnesota lakes. . . . The Things They Carried charts out a lot of emotional territory, gripping the reader from beginning to end. This is one of those books you should read. It is also one of those books you'll be glad you did. . . . This book—and these lives—will live for a long time."
Milwaukee Sentinel
 
"There have been movies. And plays. And books. But there has been nothing like Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. . . . O'Brien's vision is unique. . . . All of us, by holding O'Brien's stories in our hands, can approach Vietnam and truth."
San Diego Union
 
"His characters and his situations are unique and ring true to the point of tears. His prose is simply magnificent. . . . Unforgettable ."
Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
"A powerful yet lyrical work of fiction."
The Associated Press
 
"O'Brien's new master work. .. . Go out and get this book and read it. Read it slowly, and let O'Brien's masterful storytelling and his eloquent philosophizing about the nature of war wash over you. . . . The Things They Carried is a major work of literary imagination."
The Veteran
 
"In The Things They Carried, a matchlessly literary book, O'Brien casts away any least pretense and writes straight from the heart. . . . The Things They Carried is an accomplished, gentle, lovely book."
Kansas City Star
 

"O'Brien's meditations—on war and memory, on darkness and light—suffuse the entire work with a kind of poetic form, making for a highly original, fully realized novel. . . . Beautifully honest . . . The book is persuasive in its desperate hope that stories can save us."
—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780767902892
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/29/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 7.91 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Tim O'Brien

Tim O’Brien received the 1979 National Book Award in fiction for Going After Cacciato. Among his other books are the acclaimed novels In the Lake of the Woods, Tomcat in Love, If I Die in a Combat Zone, and July, July. In the Lake of the Woods received the James Fenimore Cooper Prize from the Society of American Historians and was named Time magazine's best novel of the year.

Biography

Tim O'Brien has said it was cowardice -- not courage -- that led him, in the late 1960s, to defer his admittance into Harvard in favor of combat in Vietnam. The alternatives of a flight to Canada or a moral stand in a U.S. jail were too unpopular.

He has since explored the definitions of courage -- moral, physical, political -- in his fiction, a body of work that has, at least until recently, dealt almost exclusively with America's most unpopular war and its domestic consequences. His first book, If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home looked at the war through a collection of war vignettes that he had written for newspapers in his home state of Minnesota, and his second book was a novel, Northern Lights, that he later decried as overly long and Hemingwayesque -- almost a parody of the writer's war stories.

His third book, Going After Cacciato in 1978 does not suffer such criticism from the author. Or, for that matter, from the critics. Grace Paley praised the novel -- which follows the journey of a soldier who goes AWOL from Vietnam and walks to Paris -- as "imaginative" in The New York Times. And the book became a breakthrough critical success for O'Brien, the start of a series that would give him the unofficial title as our pre-eminent Vietnam storyteller. Cacciato even won the prestigious National Book Award for fiction in 1979, beating out John Irving's The World According to Garp.

"Going After Cacciato taunts us with many faces and angles of vision," Catherine Calloway wrote in the 1990 book America Rediscovered: Critical Essays on Literature and Film of the Vietnam War. "The protagonist Paul Berlin cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined in the war just as the reader cannot differentiate between what is real and what is imagined in the novel... Paul Berlin is forced, as is the reader, into an attempt to distinguish between illusion and reality and in doing so creates a continuous critical dialogue between himself and the world around him."

Born in Austin, Minn., to an insurance salesman and schoolteacher, O'Brien grew up as a voracious reader but didn't find the courage to write until his experiences in Vietnam. After the war, he studied at the Harvard University's School of Government and was a staff reporter at The Washington Post in the early 1970s. He writes from early in the morning until the evening and has a reputation for discarding long passages of writing because he finds the effort substandard. He also can do extensive revisions of his books between editions.

His follow-up to Cacciato, 1981's The Nuclear Age, had a draft dodger find his fortune in the uranium business though he is consistently plagued by dreams of nuclear annihilation. Critics labeled it a misstep. But his subsequent effort, The Things They Carried, a collection of short stories about Vietnam, reaffirmed his reputation as a Vietnam observer. "By moving beyond the horror of the fighting to examine with sensitivity and insight the nature of courage and fear, by questioning the role that imagination plays in helping to form our memories and our own versions of truth, he places The Things They Carried high up on the list of best fiction about any war," The New York Times said in March of 1990. And his next novel, In the Lake of the Woods, another Vietnam effort, won the top spot on Time's roster of fiction for 1994.

In Lake, Minnesota politician John Wade, whose career has suffered a major setback with the revelation of his participation in the notorious My Lai massacre from the Vietnam War, retreats to his cabin with wife Kathy, who later disappears. The Times Literary Supplement said it was perhaps his "bleakest novel yet" and that "the most chilling passages are not those which deal with guns and gore in Vietnam but those set in Minnesota many years later, revealing a people at ease but never at peace." Pico Lyer, writing in Time, said "O'Brien manages what he does best, which is to find the boy scout in the foot soldier, and the foot soldier in every reader."

O'Brien's more recent efforts -- his sexual comedy of manners Tomcat in Love and July, July, which centers on a high-school reunion of the Vietnam set -- have not received the high praise of his earlier efforts. But O'Brien has said he is not writing for the critics, noting that Moby Dick was loathed upon its release.

"I don't get too excited about bad reviews or good ones," he told Contemporary Literature in 1991. "I feel happy if they're good, feel sad if they're bad, but the feelings disappear pretty quickly, because ultimately I'm not writing for my contemporaries but for the ages, like every good writer should be. You're writing for history, in the hope that your book -- out of the thousands that are published each year -- might be the last to be read a hundred years from now and enjoyed."

Good To Know

O'Brien was stationed in the setting of the infamous My Lai massacre a year after it occurred.

His father wrote personal accounts of World War II for The New York Times.

O'Brien's book The Things They Carried was a contender as Washington D.C. looked in 2002 to find a book for its campaign to have the entire city simultaneously reading the same book.

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    1. Also Known As:
      William Timothy O’Brien
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 1, 1946
    2. Place of Birth:
      Austin, Minnesota
    1. Education:
      B.A., Macalester College, 1968; Graduate study at Harvard University

Table of Contents

The Things They Carried Love Spin On the Rainy River Enemies Friends How to Tell a True War Story The Dentist Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong Stockings Church The Man I Killed Ambush Style Speaking of Courage Notes In the Field Good Form Field Trip The Ghost Soldiers Night Life The Lives of the Dead
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Foreword

1. Why is the first story, "The Things They Carried," written in third person? How does this serve to introduce the rest of the novel? What effect did it have on your experience of the novel when O'Brien switched to first person, and you realized the narrator was one of the soldiers?

2. In the list of all the things the soldiers carried, what item was most surprising? Which item did you find most evocative of the war? Which items stay with you?

3. In "On The Rainy River," we learn the 21-year-old O'Brien's theory of courage: "Courage, I seemed to think, comes to us in finite quantities, like an inheritance, and by being frugal and stashing it away and letting it earn interest, we steadily increase our moral capital in preparation for that day when the account must be drawn down. It was a comforting theory." What might the 43-year-old O'Brien's theory of courage be? Were you surprised when he described his entry into the Vietnam War as an act of cowardice? Do you agree that a person could enter a war as an act of cowardice?

4. What is the role of shame in the lives of these soldiers? Does it drive them to acts of heroism, or stupidity? Or both? What is the relationship between shame and courage, according to O'Brien?

5. Often, in the course of his stories, O'Brien tells us beforehand whether or not the story will have a happy or tragic ending. Why might he do so? How does it affect your attitude towards the narrator?

6. According to O'Brien, how do you tell a true war story? What does he mean when he says that true war stories are never about war? What does he mean when he writes of one story, "That's a true storythat never happened"?

7. In "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong," what transforms Mary Anne into a predatory killer? Does it matter that Mary Anne is a woman? How so? What does the story tell us about the nature of the Vietnam War?

8. The story Rat tells in "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" is highly fantastical. Does its lack of believability make it any less compelling? Do you believe it? Does it fit O'Brien's criteria for a true war story?

9. Aside from "The Things They Carried," "Speaking of Courage" is the only other story written in third person. Why are these stories set apart in this manner? What does the author achieve by doing so?

10. What is the effect of "Notes," in which O'Brien explains the story behind "Speaking Of Courage"? Does your appreciation of the story change when you learn which parts are "true" and which are the author's invention?

11. In "In The Field," O'Brien writes, "When a man died, there had to be blame." What does this mandate do to the men of O'Brien's company? Are they justified in thinking themselves at fault? How do they cope with their own feelings of culpability?

12. In "Good Form," O'Brien casts doubt on the veracity of the entire novel. Why does he do so? Does it make you more or less interested in the novel? Does it increase or decrease your understanding? What is the difference between "happening-truth" and "story-truth?"

13. On the copyright page of the novel appears the following: "This is a work of fiction. Except for a few details regarding the author's own life, all the incidents, names, and characters are imaginary." How does this statement affect your reading of the novel?

14. Does your opinion of O'Brien change throughout the course of the novel? How so? How do you feel about his actions in "The Ghost Soldiers"?

15. "The Ghost Soldiers" is one of the only stories of The Things They Carried in which we don't know the ending in advance. Why might O'Brien want this story to be particularly suspenseful?

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Reading Group Guide

1. Why is the first story, "The Things They Carried, " written in third person? How does this serve to introduce the rest of the novel? What effect did it have on your experience of the novel when O'Brien switched to first person, and you realized the narrator was one of the soldiers?

2. In the list of all the things the soldiers carried, what item was most surprising? Which item did you find most evocative of the war? Which items stay with you?

3. In "On The Rainy River, " we learn the 21-year-old O'Brien's theory of courage: "Courage, I seemed to think, comes to us in finite quantities, like an inheritance, and by being frugal and stashing it away and letting it earn interest, we steadily increase our moral capital in preparation for that day when the account must be drawn down. It was a comforting theory." What might the 43-year-old O'Brien's theory of courage be? Were you surprised when he described his entry into the Vietnam War as an act of cowardice? Do you agree that a person could enter a war as an act of cowardice?

4. What is the role of shame in the lives of these soldiers? Does it drive them to acts of heroism, or stupidity? Or both? What is the relationship between shame and courage, according to O'Brien?

5. Often, in the course of his stories, O'Brien tells us beforehand whether or not the story will have a happy or tragic ending. Why might he do so? How does it affect your attitude towards the narrator?

6. According to O'Brien, how do you tell a true war story? What does he mean when he says that true war stories are never about war? What does he mean when he writes of one story, "That's a true storythat never happened"?

7. In "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong, " what transforms Mary Anne into a predatory killer? Does it matter that Mary Anne is a woman? How so? What does the story tell us about the nature of the Vietnam War?

8. The story Rat tells in "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" is highly fantastical. Does its lack of believability make it any less compelling? Do you believe it? Does it fit O'Brien's criteria for a true war story?

9. Aside from "The Things They Carried, " "Speaking of Courage" is the only other story written in third person. Why are these stories set apart in this manner? What does the author achieve by doing so?

10. What is the effect of "Notes, " in which O'Brien explains the story behind "Speaking Of Courage"? Does your appreciation of the story change when you learn which parts are "true" and which are the author's invention?

11. In "In The Field, " O'Brien writes, "When a man died, there had to be blame." What does this mandate do to the men of O'Brien's company? Are they justified in thinking themselves at fault? How do they cope with their own feelings of culpability?

12. In "Good Form, " O'Brien casts doubt on the veracity of the entire novel. Why does he do so? Does it make you more or less interested in the novel? Does it increase or decrease your understanding? What is the difference between "happening-truth" and "story-truth?"

13. On the copyright page of the novel appears the following: "This is a work of fiction. Except for a few details regarding the author's own life, all the incidents, names, and characters are imaginary." How does this statement affect your reading of the novel?

14. Does your opinion of O'Brien change throughout the course of the novel? How so? How do you feel about his actions in "The Ghost Soldiers"?

15. "The Ghost Soldiers" is one of the only stories of The Things They Carried in which we don't know the ending in advance. Why might O'Brien want this story to be particularly suspenseful?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 623 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 625 Customer Reviews
  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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

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    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

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    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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