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The Things They Carried

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The things they carried,by Tim O'brien

"Oh man, you fuckin' trashed the fucker. You scrambled his sorry self, look at that, you did, you laid him out like fuckin' Shredded Wheat." I chose to start off my essay with this particular exert from the book because I think that it very much represents the story in itself. Azar said this, after Tim (supposedly) killed a Vietnamese soldier with a hand grenade. It shows that in times of war, how callous men can become. However, callousness varies, whether they chose to be apathetic, like Tim shows us after his grenade episode. Or whether they choose to be more myopic, as shown through Azar's insensitive actions (i.e. the young lady's tragic loss, the puppy, need I say more?). "The things they carried" by Tim O'Brien is a tale, not about war, but rather about war's affect on one's mentality.

In "the things they carried", author Tim O'Brien tries to teach readers that war changes people, by using baggage as a symbol throughout the book. Ultimately, "the things they carried" is literally built on a foundation of the things they carried. Whether it's the way Jimmy Cross uses the pebble to escape from his duties as a soldier. Or the way that they all look up to the pantyhose as an almost godly relic. All the way to Norman Bowker finally realizing that courage comes from within, not from winning the Silver Star. These things, made up the soldiers attributes, made up the soldiers' persona, made up the soldier. But they didn't stop at the soldier; certain items characterized all the soldiers as a collective group. It even went as far as to describe an entire group by the things all of them carried, of course being the green berets. There were no single green berets just a group; nobody made an effort to distinguish one from another. Like the way we make no effort to name each and every cell in our body, they are just smaller pieces that make up one entity.

Throughout the entire book, O'Brien makes several references to how normal men can completely change their persona if placed in such an environment. I picked four instances, which truly represented how the mind changes. When Dave Jensen broke lee trunk's nose, he became absolutely paranoid about every aspect of his life. The young lady who began going on ambush's with the green berets also shows how people can be reconditioned by war. Bobby Jorgensen cowardly hesitated and nearly cost Tim his life, but it was later learned that he had matured through experience. Even the author undergoes an incredible change from the beginning of the story, and through the trials and tribulations, he becomes an almost completely different person. Although there were more situations in which this particular change was exhibited, I feel that these represented it to the most acute degree.

Incredible paranoia is one side effect of being surrounded by so much carnage. After Lee Strunk comes back from the undertakings involving his broken nose, Dave Jensen went into a mentality consisting of paranoid lunacy. When you are around a person who has an incredible amount of spite for you, as well as ready access to firearms, moreover nothing to lose, one cannot help but spend their days looking over your shoulder. Living in fear of someone you have crossed, waiting for the day when you will be caught off guard, giving them the chance to exact their horrible revenge. Jensen just could not take it any more, and he went as far as to break his own nose. It takes a certain type of motivation for a person to sit down and break his own nose. But afterwards, he felt as if a great burden had been lifted off of his shoulders. And that is exactly what the war did, it burdened these



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