The things They carried is a collection of short stories written by Tim O'Brien. This is a story describing a group of soldiers and the things they carried in their bag packs and hearts. The soldiers were forced to carry vital items, which they could need for survival during the war. This novel comprises of a group of interwoven stories, which describe the soldiers’ experiences during the Vietnam War. On the other hand, Three Day Road is a novel by Joseph Boyden. This novel about two soldiers Xavier Bird and Elijah Whiskey jack fought during the First World War Xavier comes home wounded after the war while he is addicted to Morphine, a drug that helps him forget everything about the war and the pain in his leg. The Things They Carried and Three Day Road, are war books where we are introduced to the lives of the soldiers, however, the soldiers treated war differently.
In the stories, the author depicts war differently using their characters. In The Things They Carried, war is portrayed as impersonal and at the same time individualized. The soldiers in the story each carried items they thought would be of help to them during the time of the war. Comparably, in Three Day Road, the soldiers worked as a group to accomplish their mission in the war. Even after some of them died, the remaining soldiers were fearless because, they knew they had to fight until the end.
In addition, O’Brien shows how the men were always haunted with the fear of dying in the war. When Ted Lavender died, the men feared for their lives. Lavender’s death is described as "Boom down, he said. Like cement" (O’Brien 250), whereby it described like something strong falling on the ground. This made the soldiers fear the war because they felt that death was knocking at the door. The men were full of emotional burden during the war. In Three Day Road, the characters were dependent on a drug that helped them forget about everything about the war. Xavier confesses that, “When he does not take the morphine, he is afraid of the world, and that is not a good feeling But when the golden liquid is in his veins! He becomes the hunter at these times, the invincible hunter who can lie still for hours, for days, only moving to refuel his body with the medicine” ( Boyden 212). The soldiers in Three Day Road depended on morphine in order to be able to fight , otherwise without it, they felt defeated. While the soldiers in The Things they Carried were emotionally hurt by what was happening to them, the characters in Three Day Road were dependent on the morphine drug. The drug the Xavier and Elijah took made them forget about the horrors of the war.
Death was handled differently in the stories. In the Things They Carried, the soldiers’ were on the first experience of the war and this affected them a lot. O’Brien accurately portrays the impact of the war through the soldiers’ guilt stricken minds. Among the impacts of the war are; the deaths of the soldiers, the trauma and guilt of all the soldiers after seeing their friends die. Moreover, they felt devastated after the death of their friends and had a feeling that, they could have saved them; and, the lessening sanity of a medic as the constant death surrounds him; the most negative impact a war could have. This is a clear example of how war influenced the soldiers; they could not stand the shattering experiences of the war. In Three Day Road, the death is handled in a different way. Xavier has no fear in dealing with death; in fact, he thanks his comrades for a good fight and lays them peacefully. Boyden writes, Xavier thanked them “for helping to strengthen the trench line.” (Boyden 189). Xavier is composed about death and has no fears because to him, death was inevitable. Xavier buried his comrades happily, because he knew that death was inevitable for all and that they had died in the line of duty.
In the Three Day Road, the soldiers were brave and highly skilled compared to the men in The Things They Carried. In The Things They Carried, the men were very desperate for anything and everything until, they forget the reason why they were there, and their duty in the war. The soldiers carried ghosts to the Vietnam War and this affected them a lot. Comparably, In Three Day Road, the men knew why they were in the war, to fight and that is why many of then died in the line of duty.
The soldiers in both stores were psychologically tortured by the events of the war. In Tim O'Brien's short story The Things They Carried, there are a number of examples of the psychological loss of innocence of soldiers. Similarly, in Joseph Boyden's Three Day Road, the reader becomes acquainted with the effects of war after returning home. In both works the trauma that a young soldier experiences is made painfully real. Both soldiers were haunted with the events of the war. The men carried emotional baggage with them and this affected their fight in the war. According to Boyden, Xavier comes back home devastated and with a lot of pain from an amputated leg; he was weak and dying from the horrors of the war. In addition, in both stories, the soldiers are presented as victims instead of as heroes like in all war stories (Neilson 134).
In both stories the reader also becomes aware of the emotional strain and weight a soldier endures during the war. In O’Brien’s book, the soldiers carried emotional weights and this affected them emotionally and psychologically. Rather than taking place after the war like Three Day Road, the characters rippled through and brought life to the battle field. They carried all they could bear, but could not hold on to it anymore. O’Brien writes, “They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity” (O’Brien 122). The soldiers were not ready for the war and even for death, which is why they were stricken with fear after the death of some of them. They had emotional baggage of people who had just given up, and were ready to die other than fighting like soldiers do. Just as the soldiers in Three Day Road, have to mask their fears to hold up their "reputations”. Xavier and Elijah became good friends in order to be there for each other. despite the situation of the war. This is according to their comments, “We all fight on two fronts, the one facing the enemy, the one facing what we do to the enemy” (Boyden 103). Xavier and Elijah were always there for each other and fought with no fear.
In conclusion, The Things They Carried and Three Day Road are war books. However, war is presented differently in the stories as it is depicted similarly. The soldiers are considered as victims instead of heroes of the war. Most war books glorify war but these two books are very different, as they do not glorify war. In The Things They Carried, the soldiers feared for their death, and were always emotionally strained. While in Three Day Road, the soldiers were strong during the death of their friends and never feared death. Nonetheless, the soldier in Three Day Road used a drug called Morphine to forget the horrors of the war. Lastly, the soldiers in both books were affected in one way or another by the war.
O’Brien, Tim. “The Things They Carried.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dan Gioa. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2009. (595-607). Print.
O'Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried: a work of fiction. New York: Houghton, 1990. Print.
Boyden, Joseph. Three Day Road. Canada: Penguin Books, 2006. Print.
Neilson, Jim. Warring Fictions: American Literary Culture and the Vietnam War Narrative. Jackson: Mississippi UP, 1998. Print.
Johnson, Christine. Book Review: Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden. Chalkthesun.org, 29 Dec. 2011. Web. 31Mar. 2014. Chalkthesun.org/2011/12/29/book-review-three-day-road-by-joseph-boyden/