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The Things They Carried Symbolism Essay

  • Submitted by: picturemerolin
  • on December 7, 2008
  • Category: English
  • Length: 933 words

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Below is an essay on "The Things They Carried Symbolism" from Anti Essays, your source for research papers, essays, and term paper examples.

Coping With Death
O'Brien's novel, The Things They Carried, demonstrates the horrible reality of death in war and how soldiers deal with the pain. Death is one of life’s most challenging obstacles and the soldiers have their fare share of it. The American soldiers of Veitnam have many ways to make death less real through tactics like telling stories about the dead, as if they were living, and conceiving the dead as items instead of people. The Things They Carried shows the techniques in many different ways.
O'Brien explains how the stories told about those who have passed on are meant to keep the deceased's alive. “The weight of memory was one thing all the solders carried”(14). When added to the physical weight of their supplies and the emotional stress of war, a soldier can really have troubles surviving in battle. In response, the men changed their idea of the truth in order to lighten the grusome memories. "In a true war story nothing is ever absolutely true," memory is altered to compensate for its weight (82). In this way, O'Brien, and the rest of the men, were able to utilize "story-truth (179)." Stories alter truth; therefore, a well-told story can actually allow the dead to continue to live on. "In a story, the dead sometimes smile and sit up and return to the world (225)." In this way you could "keep the dead alive" with "blatant lies, bringing the body and soul back together (239)." O'Brien remembers listening to a story about Curt Lemon. He recalls how "you'd never know that Curt Lemon was dead (240)." It seemed like "he was still out there in the dark" yet, "he was dead (240)." Similarly O'Brien uses story to save his childhood friend's life, "not her body - her life (236)." In his stories Linda "can smile and sit up. She can reach out (236)." He allows her to come to life and "touch his wrist and say, "Timmy, stop crying." (238)." O'Brien and the rest of the men are able to find a comfort in the unreal that the real cannot offer.

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