Reflecting on Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried”

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is a wonderful and powerful novel (one that I would definitely recommend) which strives to illustrate the complexity behind not only wars but also the strength found in stories. We as readers are given the different experiences of a couple of unique characters.

Although I was aware that this novel was fictionalized, I was pretty convinced that most of the events had to have been based off of true experiences that Tim O’Brien had personally had with real soldiers during the Vietnam War. They had to have been. Yet when O’Brien later reveals in his novel the fact that most of the events and people are made up, I was totally taken back. I couldn’t believe that even the stories that he was telling as stories were made up, he didn’t actually have a daughter, the “Tim O’Brien” in the novel wasn’t actually the real him, the dedication page… It was so mind-boggling! After much discussion and watching two interviews was I truly able to grasp the level of mastered artistry that O’Brien utilizes to craft this wonderful novel.

This new genre instigated by O’Brien’s novel (though it has yet to have a specific name) underscores the magical potency of literature, how through literature authentic events can be transformed into symbolic masterpieces. I can’t quite choose which genre I would consider this novel. Yes, much of the novel is fictionalized, yet some (very few) aspects are real and the novel kind of does serve as O’Brien’s autobiography….

I don’t know…

How about a realistic, autobiographical, fictionalized novel!

Okay, I tried:)

For now until a new name is created, I have to agree though that this novel is best under the genre of fiction.

Coca-Cola Brings Self-Awareness

There’s a really cool website that you should visit if you’d like to read some first hand accounts of the Vietnam War or just some pretty cool stories:)

One of the articles I found most interesting was “Coca-Cola Kid Startles Sleeping Marines.” Though probably among some of the more carefree accounts, it provides one perspective of the influences of the Vietnam War on normal citizens.

The narrator of this article (I believe his name is Joe Holt) recounts to when he was just 18 years old, having no idea of his future and never even hearing of Vietnam, when he enlisted into the Marines. An event he remembers most though, was on a specific patrol that he and a couple of other guys had been assigned to. Having patrolled their hill many times, aware of no suspicions, the guys decided to sneak off into an enclosed place, far from any villages, to listen to their radio and have a nap. Once the patrol had fallen asleep, they were startled to find a young Vietnamese boy right in front of them, wanting to sell them Coca-Cola. They ended up buying all of the Coca-Cola.

What I enjoyed about this account was how lighthearted it was. In history classes, we always learn about the gruesome events that took place during the Vietnam War (to say the least, these aspects should not be undermined) and how so many people were literally directly impacted by this conflict. However, this account illustrates another effect of the Vietnam War on the lives of young men. The guys in the patrol are nearly my age and I can kind of connect with their perspectives. This is the age in life when many people truly do not know what they want to do in their lives and as a result, sometimes we do things that we don’t really understand.

By going to Vietnam, this simple moment when the boys were fearful yet curious and serious yet carefree changed the narrator’s life. He realized how truly silly and young they were. Startled by a mere little boy, the guys learned more than they had before. That’s what I love about this account. Many times we want these huge, drastic events to come into our lives and change us. We often think of big occurrences as big impacts.

And yet, sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest differences.   

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