Calloway, C. (1995). 'How to tell a true war story': Metafiction in The things they carried. Critique 36(4): 249.
In this article, O'Brien's work is examined as a piece of metafiction; the style and structure of the work frames the stories into epistemological tools with which to view the Vietnam war, life in America, gender issues and more through the lens of different viewpoints. The amount of autobiography found in many of the stories creates a metafictional link between O'Brien's experiences and the contents of these stories. O'Brien also notes unique ways to involve the reader in creating their own interpretations of the text - Calloway examines several places in the book where the author is asked to test or evaluate the veracity of these stories, in order to discern a greater truth. This literature is extremely helpful in elucidating O'Brien's biographical link to the stories of The Things They Carried, as well as defining the style and literary techniques used in the work.
Goluboff, B. (2004). Tim O'Brien's Quang Ngai. ANQ 17(2): 53-58.
In this piece, Goluboff (2004) examines the fictional stories of O'Brien's work against the real texts regarding what actually occurred in Quant Ngai province, the active area of Vietnam the US armed forces engaged in from 1968 to 1969, the time of the novel. Geographical and historical information about the province is provided, as well as facts about O'Brien's tenure there during his military service. Comparing The Things They Carried with Jonathan Schell's "The Military Half", Goluboff (2004) finds several comparison points where events intersect, including "The Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong." Using these points of comparison, the author seeks to further the metafictional links between O'Brien's fictional accounts of his time in the Vietnam War and what really happened. This will be used to further O'Brien's metafictional techniques in the book, and their eventual significance in telling the real story of Vietnam.
Kaplan, S. (1993). The undying uncertainty of the narrator in Tim O'Brien's The things they carried. Critique 35(1): 43.
Kaplan (1993) examines The Things They Carried as a series of stories with an unreliable narrator; his thesis is that it is impossible to completely trust the accounts of the narrators within the book. Framing this uncertainty along with the general ambiguity of the moral codes and sense of reality American soldiers experienced in Vietnam, the author likens this uncertainty to O'Brien's uncertainty in his work. O'Brien is stated to have been honest about this lack of reliability, his characters openly stating their lack of understanding about what they are doing and why they are in Vietnam. The nature of reality is often called into question, and the line between ally and enemy is often blurred depending on the situation. Kaplan (1993) dissects O'Brien's use of imagination as a means to understand the complexities and uncertainties about the Vietnam war. This includes the subtextual meaning of the "things they carried" as a psychological barometer for each soldier's fears, anxieties and hopes, Lt. Cross' relationship with the girl in his letters, and more - O'Brien constantly provides the reader with multiple likely interpretations of an event. The use of this ambiguity is celebrated by Kaplan as an accurate and fascinating indicator of the Vietnam war experience.