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“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien: Bright Characters With Uneasy Fates

Introduction

Wars are conflicts blown out of proportion, leading to thousands, if not millions, of innocent deaths. Tim O’Brien wrote stories about the simple people who happened to be at the heart of the Vietnam conflict. It is hard to tell which events in his book “The Things They Carried” are purely fictional or based on true stories, but they all have bright characters with uneasy fates.

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What Connects the Novels

O’Brien centers his work around a platoon of American soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War. The plots of stories always touch on the lives of ordinary men, not commanders or politicians. The reader can see the development of characters as they live through hard times and are forced to adjust to their surroundings. Sometimes, the stories’ finals are predictable, in other cases – unexpected (O’Brien, 2009). It seems that the author tried to explain the horrors of the War to ordinary people, who had never risked their lives as soldiers.

The Story of Jensen and Strunk in the “Enemies” and “Friends”

Jensen and Strunk did not have a good relationship when they first met. They got into frequent fights and made each other’s lives in Vietnam even more difficult than they could be. Sometimes the conflicts included gun usage since every soldier carried a weapon with him. Jensen compared that uneasy situation to “fighting two wars” since he had to continually be on guard and watch his back (O’Brien, 2009, p.60). Eventually, Jensen and Strunk learned to trust each other and became friends. They fought the battles together and even promised that if one of them got a terrible wound, the other would shoot him and stop the suffering. One time, Jensen stepped on a rigged mortar round, lost his leg, and had to be transferred (O’Brien, 2009). That ended the communication between two friends that started as enemies. War made these rough men flexible enough to appreciate each other’s company.

The Story of Curt Lemon in the “Dentist”

Usually, soldiers are pictured as tough people who are not afraid of anything, including pain. However, all humans have their weaknesses, and war participants are not an exception. Curt Lemon liked to play the role of a tough guy, maybe even a bully. He seemed to always be ready for combat until one day, a dentist came to check soldiers’ teeth. Lemon got very nervous and fainted even before the doctor could touch him. That embarrassing incident made Curt go back to the dentist and insist on taking out a perfectly good tooth (O’Brien, 2009). Stories like this show how war pressure can make people do irrational things.

The Story of Mary Anne in the “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”

Women are traditionally regarded as soft and kind creatures that feel uncomfortable in the war zone, but that was not the case with Mary Anne. Mark Fossie, one of the soldiers in Vietnam, arranged her arrival from the U.S., as they used to be sweethearts, and he missed the company of his girlfriend. Mary Anne was very curious about the War, weapons, and the local way of life from the day of her arrival. From a cute giggly blond, she turned into a cold, skillful combat soldier no longer interested in getting married or having children. Eventually, she left Mark and joined the special forces. This story has no end; the author chose to leave it open (O’Brien, 2009). War can change the traditional gender roles of society until they are no longer recognizable.

Conclusion

War is a significant factor that affects people’s daily schedules, physical and psychological health, and plans for the future. It can make tough people softer by exposing their need for human connection. At the same time, a battle zone can turn a giggly college girl into a professional fighter. People cannot tell the effect of the War on them until they have to go through one. Since battles usually bring more grief and destruction than good, most modern humans are lucky to avoid them.

References

O’Brien, T. (2009). The Things They Carried. Mariner.

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StudyCorgi. "“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien: Bright Characters With Uneasy Fates." May 24, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-things-they-carried-by-tim-obrien-essay/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien: Bright Characters With Uneasy Fates." May 24, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-things-they-carried-by-tim-obrien-essay/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) '“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien: Bright Characters With Uneasy Fates'. 24 May.

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