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Newspaper article Essay

In this essay I talked about literary elements such as symbolism, imagery, and metaphors being used very well in the book “The Things They Carried: by Tim O’Brien. I wrote about Tim O’Brien who is the author of The Things They Carried; O’Brien was born in Austin, Minnesota. When he was twelve, his family, including a younger sister and brother, moved to Worthington, Minnesota. His writing career was launched in 1973 with the release of If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home, about his war experiences and how in on attribute of O’Brien’s work is the blur between fiction and reality; labeled “Verisimilitude,” his work contains actual details of the situations he experienced.

Although this is a common literary technique, his conscious, explicit, and metafictional approach to the distinction between fact and fiction is a unique component of his writing style. In the chapter “Good Form” in The Things They Carried, O’Brien casts a distinction between “story-truth” (the truth of fiction) and “happening-truth” (the truth of fact or occurrence), writing that “story-truth is sometimes truer than happening-truth.” Story truth is emotional truth; thus the feeling created by a fictional story is sometimes truer than what results from reading the facts.

I wrote about some symbolism such as the dead young Vietnamese soldier being killed by O’Brien with a grenade. I wrote about imagery such as “The Man I Killed”, because it goes into details with things like “thinking repeatedly of the star-shaped hole that is in the place of his eye and the peeled-back cheek” and also like “a Vietnamese girl of fourteen dances through the wreckage though most of her village has burned to the ground and her family has been burned to death by the American soldiers”.

I also wrote about metaphors such as the sewage field and how in “In the Field,” (the field here being both the sewage field that drowned Kiowa and the combat zone) O’Brien discusses the blame for Kiowa’s death in the sewage field – or, the drowning of American goodness in poop. Outline

I. Introduction
Thesis
Author
II. Symbolism
Kiowa
“The Dead Young Vietnamese Soldier”
III. Imagery
“The Man I Killed”
“Style”
IV. Metaphors
The Lake/ Field
“The Things They Carried”
VI. Conclusion
Thesis

In the book “The Things They Carried” many literary elements such as symbolism, imagery, and metaphors are used very well. Tim O’Brien is the author of The Things They Carried; O’Brien was born in Austin, Minnesota. When he was twelve, his family, including a younger sister and brother, moved to Worthington, Minnesota, a city that once billed itself as “the turkey capital of the world.” Worthington had a large influence on O’Brien’s imagination and early development as an author.

The town is located on Lake Okabena in the western portion of the state and serves as the setting for some of his stories, especially those in the novel The Things They Carried. He earned his BA in Political Science from Macalester College, where he was Student Body President, in 1968. That same year he was drafted into the United States Army and was sent to Vietnam, where he served from 1968 to 1970 in the 3rd Platoon, Company A, 5th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Division.

He served in the division that contained a unit involved in the infamous My Lai Massacre. O’Brien has said that when his unit got to the area around My Lai (referred to as “Pinkville” by the U.S. forces), “we all wondered why the place was so hostile. We did not know there had been a massacre there a year earlier. The news about that only came out later, while we were there, and then we knew. Upon completing his tour of duty, O’Brien went on to graduate school at Harvard University and received an internship at the Washington Post.

His writing career was launched in 1973 with the release of If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home, about his war experiences. One attribute in O’Brien’s work is the blur between fiction and
reality; labeled “Verisimilitude,” his work contains actual details of the situations he experienced. Although this is a common literary technique, his conscious, explicit, and metafictional approach to the distinction between fact and fiction is a unique component of his writing style. In the chapter “Good Form” in The Things They Carried, O’Brien casts a distinction between “story-truth” (the truth of fiction) and “happening-truth” (the truth of fact or occurrence), writing that “story-truth is sometimes truer than happening-truth.”

Story truth is emotional truth; thus the feeling created by a fictional story is sometimes truer than what results from reading the facts. Certain sets of stories in The Things They Carried seem to contradict each other, and certain stories are designed to “undo” the suspension of disbelief created in previous stories; for example, “Speaking of Courage” is followed by “Notes”, which explains in what ways “Speaking of Courage” is fictional. O’Brien won the 1979 National Book Award for, Going After Cacciato.

Also his novel, In the Lake of the Woods, won the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Best Historical Fiction in 1995. His most recent novel is July, July. In these paragraphs I will talk about examples of symbolism and what they mean. Kiowa is a good example of symbolism, a compassionate and talkative soldier; he demonstrates the importance of talking about one’s problems and traumatic experiences. He is also a devout Baptist and a Native American that occasionally feels contempt and distrust towards white people. However, he appears to be Tim O’Brien’s best friend in the company. Kiowa often helps other soldiers deal with their own actions, such as taking the lives of other human beings.

Kiowa’s death is symbolic of the senseless tragedy of war. He dies in a gruesome way, drowning under the muck of a sewage field about which his lieutenant, Jimmy Cross, has a bad feeling. Kiowa’s entirely submerged body represents the transitory nature of life and the horrifying suddenness with which it can be snatched away. There is no dignity to Kiowa’s death; he becomes another casualty in a war that strips men of their identity and turns them into statistics.

The dead young Vietnamese soldier is another example of symbolism. O’Brien is unclear about whether or not he actually threw a grenade and killed a man outside My Khe, his memory of the man’s corpse is strong and recurring, symbolizing humanity’s guilt over war’s horrible acts. In “The Man I Killed,” O’Brien distances himself from the memory by speaking in the third person and constructing fantasies as to what the man must have been like before he was killed. O’Brien marvels at the wreckage of his body, thinking repeatedly of the star-shaped hole that is in the place of his eye and the peeled-back cheek.

The description serves to distance O’Brien from the reality of his actions because nowhere in its comprehensive detail are O’Brien’s feelings about the situation mentioned. His guilt is evident, however, in his imagining of a life for the man he killed that includes several aspects that are similar to his own life. In these next paragraphs I will be talking about some examples of imagery. The chapter “The Man I Killed” is an example, because it goes into details with things like “thinking repeatedly of the star-shaped hole that is in the place of his eye and the peeled-back cheek” (chapter 12).

The chapter “Style” has great imagery with quotes like “a Vietnamese girl of fourteen dances through the wreckage though most of her village has burned to the ground and her family has been burned to death by the American soldiers.” (Chapter 14). In The book The Things They Carried, Metaphors are also used. Tim O’Brien uses examples such as The Lake/ Field as an example, in “In the Field,” (the field here being both the sewage field that drowned Kiowa and the combat zone) O’Brien discusses the blame for Kiowa’s death in the sewage field – or, in keeping with our metaphor, the drowning of American goodness in poop.

The soldiers all feel guilty in one way or another – for following orders instead of trusting the Vietnamese, for a moment of stupidity in the field, or for their own brutal and disrespectful natures. Jimmy Cross and Norman Bowker both reflect that the blame is universal. The ignoble death of American decency in war is everybody’s fault, in one way or another. O’Brien also uses chapters like “The Things They Carried” as metaphors such as, First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey” (667).

This begins Tim O’Brien’s short story “The Things They Carried.” The author will go on to list all the items carried by these soldiers, including helmets, canteens and ammunition. O’Brien uses the list of physical objects that the members of the Alpha Company carry in Vietnam as a window to the emotional burdens that these soldiers bear. One such burden is the necessity for the young soldiers to confront the tension between fantasy and reality. The realization of this tension disrupts Cross’s stint as the resident dreamer of the Alpha Company.

Cross thinks that because he was so obsessed with his fantasy of Martha and the life they might lead after the war, he was negligent. He sees Ted Lavender’s death as the result of his negligence. If “The Things They Carried” is the illustration of the conflict between love and war, then the death of Ted Lavender and the subsequent disillusionment of Lieutenant Cross signify a triumph for war in this conflict. The emotional burdens that the soldiers bear are intensified by their young age and inexperience.

Most of the men who fought in Vietnam were in their late teens and early twenties—they were children, students, and boyfriends who had no perspective on how to rationalize killing or come to terms with their friends’ untimely deaths. From the beginning, O’Brien the author uses explicit details to illustrate what the experience was like for the scared men. Among the things the men carry are guilt and cowardice that they are neither able to admit to nor negotiate.

Although they are sad for the loss of their friend Lavender, their predominant feeling is of relief, since they are still alive. So as you can see, in the book “The Things They Carried” many literary elements such as symbolism, imagery, and metaphors are used very well.


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