The Things They Carried (1990) by Tim O’Brian is one of the most famous short stories in the history of English literature. The literary work has impressed the critics and readers alike, and it enjoys widespread popularity among literature lovers and readers across the globe. The stalwart author has used a number of literary devices with his aesthetic quintessence to accentuate the effect of the story on the minds of the avid readers all over. The paramount influence of the linguistic richness and the literary devices has immortalized the short story in the pages of history of literature.
The things carried by the characters of the story are both physical and psychological in nature. Henry Dobbins not only carries the pantyhose of his girlfriend, but also the desire to feel love and comfort. Again, Jimmy cross carries the maps and compasses as well as the responsibility of the men. The psychological burden that is carried by the people after the war is quite an onus for them. “O’Brien does an excellent job of painting the imagery of the experiences the soldiers are experiencing.” (Clark)
The story is narrated in third person, and the author also provides some amount of insight into Jimmy Cross’ mind in the course of the short story. This shift between the two perspectives is known as free indirect discourse. The purpose of such a form of narrative technique is to keep the readers at a distance from character of the soldiers. The readers find the characters moving across unknown landscapes with their variety of burdens with them. The soldiers portrayed in the story portray the feeling of jeopardy and helplessness as the describe demise to be “torn up” or “zapped.”
The dramatic narrative of the story is often driven by a conflict when two of the characters have a friction with each other. The author portrays the atmosphere to be very tense all the time. The characters that are portrayed in the story know very well that death can end their lives anytime. There is extra tension in the ambiance when a soldier meets his untimely death. Cross knows that he is responsible for the death, and he sinks in guilt. Thus, the emotion of guilty becomes the most pervasive one in this stirring short story.
The internal conflict of the characters is conspicuous in the course of the story. After the untimely death of Lavender, when Cross is engaged in digging the foxhole, the author tells the readers of the story that he felt shameful apart from “both love and hate.” The author suggests that Cross has two very different forms of emotions working at the same time. The dichotomous emotions are an important thing of exploration to understand the psyche of the character in this instance. The irony is that although he is in love with Martha, she has no feelings for him. As Lavender dies, Cross comprehends that as he has chosen to escape to the world of fantasy of Martha, his focus from his work as a leader and soldier has shifted.
Thus, the author weaves a story that stirs the minds of the readers, and reverberates with its content, literary devices and artistic excellence. The story is a vehement expression of the horrors of war. The psychological effects of war are deeply delved into by the author in this short story. The readers are left to wonder the irreplaceable damage that war inflicts to the lives and psyche of individuals.
Clark, Kathryn. “Review: The Things They Carried.” NACADA The Global Community for
Academic Advising. NACADA, n.d. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.
O’Brian, Tim. The Things They Carried. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1990. Print.
Scott, A.O. “Voicing Vietnam: Tim O’Brien’s ‘Things They Carried,’ Read by Bryan Cranston.”
nytimes.com. The New York Times, 21 Nov. 2013. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.