Summary of Book “The Things They Carried” by Tim O'Brien

“The Things They Carried”/Chapter 1: In light of the beginning events of chapter one, it has shown the effect of war on the individual twice. For example, the novel states “Lieutenant Cross felt the pain. He blamed himself…Lieutenant Cross kept to himself…and now Ted Lavender was dead because he loved her so much and could not stop thinking about her.” (O’Brien, pg. 6). This demonstrates how one of the effects of war, such as losing a comrade, can affect someone’s personality such as Lieutenant Cross’s by rendering them to be more self-inflicted when something they cared about cost someone else their life or worse.

Another example is when the novel states “you found yourself worrying about odd things: Will your flashlight go dead? Do rats carry rabies?…Imagination was a killer.” (O’Brien, pg. 10). This shows the effect of war by demonstrating what people involved in war change their thinking into, different from what they usually set their minds to in their everyday lives.

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Overall, this chapter demonstrated the effect of war on the individual twice.

“The Things They Carried”/Chapter 2: During the short events of chapter two, it once again shows the effect of war on the individual. For example, the novel states “‘Well, I did-I burned it. After Lavender died, I couldn’t…This is a new one. Martha gave it to me herself.” (O’Brien, pg. 27). This clarifies that Lieutenant Cross, after the war, burned something that was given to him by his lover to honor Lavender’s death in the war.

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This is proven significant since this shows to the extent war can affect someone permanently, such as when Cross was very depressed even after the war about Lavender’s death and resorted to drinking alcoholic drinks to brighten the mood. In conclusion, these line of events demonstrate the effect of war on the individual.

“The Things They Carried”/Chapter 3: In chapter three, the novel reintroduces the concept of the effect of war on the individual. This is shown when the novel states “as I write about these things, the remembering is turned into a kind of rehappening…The bad stuff never stops happening: it lives in its own dimension, replaying itself over and over.” (O’Brien, pg. 31). This is interpreted as how war gave him an unsettling memory of his experience in war and was so impactful it was as if he were reliving that experience. This proves the concept of war affecting the individual since this shows not physical effects such as scars and marks, but internal effects such as his memory often being plagued by his experience in war driving him to imagine himself reliving that war and seems to never cease. In conclusion, this chapter once again reintroduces the theme of how war affects one individual.

“The Things They Carried”/Chapter 4: Regarding the plot of chapter four, it was eventually shown that the fear of shame was a more powerful motivator. This point is made when the novel stated “All those eyes on me-the town, the whole universe-and I couldn’t risk the embarrassment…I would go to the war-I would kill and maybe die-because I was embarrassed not to.” (O’Brien, pg. 57). This quote means that despite the idea of courage he thought of, it eventually got discarded as through numerous points of mental deliberation while staying with an old man at a lodge, he eventually came and went to war due to the fear of shame from his family and hometown instead of having the courage to do so. This signifies the fear of shame being the more powerful motivator since through this person’s point of view, we see his thoughts and how impacted he feels by his parents’ opinions along with his hometown enough to compare it to the whole universe and we then see how eventually, he reached the conclusion of heading to war due to that fear. Lastly, the events of chapter four have shown how the fear of shame was a more powerful motivator.

“The Things They Carried”/Chapter 5: In chapter five, the novel demonstrated the effect of war on the individual. For example, the novel states “while the rest of us took it easy, Jensen would be sitting with his back against a stone wall,…One afternoon he began firing his weapon into the air, yelling Strunk’s name, just firing and yelling,…” (O’Brien, pg. 60). This means that the war is rendering himself paranoid and insane, judging from his restlessness during everyone’s break and his firing into the air and yelling indicating his insanity. This demonstrates the effect of war on the individual since this shows how war is affecting his mind and changing his behavior by rendering him insane and more paranoid, enough to stay awake at possibly all times due to how he thinks his enemies might approach him due to the conflict. In conclusion, this excerpt from the novel shows how war can affect the individual.

“The Things They Carried”/Chapter 6: In chapter six, the novel gives an example of acceptance towards death. This is shown when the novel states “they made a pact that if one of them should ever get…-a wheelchair wound-the other guy would automatically find a way to end it.” (O’Brien, pg. 62). This means how two war buddies made a pact in which one of them is badly wounded, the other would have to kill him while accepting death. This demonstrates the acceptance of death since this pact that the two war buddies, Jenkins and Strunk, made shows how far they’re willing to accept death when either one of them gets critically injured which later comes into effect but not entirely when Strunk was critically injured and solely died a while later. Overall, this excerpt demonstrates the acceptance of death through these two soldiers.

“The Things They Carried”/Chapter 7: From this excerpt of the novel, the story demonstrates acceptance towards death. This is shown when the novel states “perhaps, war is just another name for death, and yet any soldier will tell you, if he tells the truth, that proximity to death brings with it a corresponding proximity to life.” (O’Brien, pg. 77). This means how most soldiers that often die accept it once they enter the war and once they do, they believe they’ve achieved inner peace when they rest. This is significant when it comes to acceptance of death since this shows the soldiers’ belief and what they think about during war while accepting it, overall changing their outlook on life and their behavior as demonstrated by the narrator, describing war as “another name for death”. In conclusion, this passage mostly demonstrates the theme of acceptance of death.

“The Things They Carried”/Chapter 8: In the events of chapter eight, the novel shows how the fear of shame can be a powerful motivator. For example, the novel states “When he came to, there was a funny new look on his face almost sheepish, as if he’d been caught committing some terrible crime. He wouldn’t talk to anyone…stayed off by himself, sitting alone under a tree,…” (O’Brien, pg. 84). This means that possibly most of his actions during the war came from his fear of shame coming from the other troops, judging by this behavior. This demonstrates a fear of shame being a more powerful motivator since this quote shows how easily Lemon reacts to even the simplest thing such as a dentist operation with the thought of the other troops shaming him in mind,. suggesting that his actions majorly came from his fear of shame. Overall, this passage in the novel demonstrates how the fear of shame can be a powerful motivator.

“The Things They Carried”/Chapter 9: In chapter nine, the novel demonstrates how this time courage can be a more powerful motivator. This is shown when the novel states “wasn’t afraid to get her hands bloody. At times, in fact, she seemed fascinated by it…No time for sorting through options, no thinking at all you just stuck your hands in and started plugging up holes.” (O’Brien, pg. 93). This means how Mary Anne, despite being an inexperienced one in the war, was courageous enough to enter possibly dangerous situations without thinking about it and holding back to learn things. This shows how courage can be a more powerful motivator since this shows Mary Anne, unlike most soldiers, often jumps in disregarding everything else through ignorance for the sake of the experience and possibly not just death. Finally, this excerpt from chapter nine shows how courage can be a more powerful motivator.

“The Things They Carried”/Chapter 10: During the brief passage of chapter ten, the novel demonstrates how war can affect an individual beyond physical means. This is shown when the novel states “Like many of us in Vietnam, Dobbins felt the pull of superstition, and he believed firmly and absolutely in the protective power of the stockings. They were like body armor, he thought.” (O’Brien, pg. 112). This is interpreted as how war can indirectly cause soldiers to believe in things they normally don’t believe in, such as superstitions. This shows how war can affect an individual beyond physical means since it can be inferred that many of these soldiers never really believed what they did before they went to war in Vietnam and due to the circumstances there, they started believing in superstitions that gave them a sort of hopeful sense due to the description of how it’s like body armor given by the narrator. In conclusion, this brief passage helps demonstrate the effect of war on the individual beyond physical means.

“The Things They Carried”/Chapter 11: In the events of “Church”, the novel once again shows how war can affect an individual that’s beyond physical. This is shown when the novel states “‘Maybe you’d change,’ Kiowa said…`Maybe I’ll do it. Find a monastery somewhere. Wear a robe and be nice to people.”’ (O’Brien, pg. 115). This means that during the war, the troops took shelter within the monks and caused one of them to possibly have a change of heart due to the monks’ actions such as helping and serving them. This shows war affecting an individual beyond physical means since during this chapter, monks that were involved in the war because of helping the troops were kind-hearted to them, which prompted one of the soldiers Dobbins to have an entire change of heart and resorted to helping others after the war. Overall, this chapter shows the effect of war on the individual.

“The Things They Carried”/Chapter 12: During chapter twelve, the story shows how the fear of shame often becomes a more powerful motivator. This is shown when the novel states “The young man could not make himself fight them. He often wanted to, but he was afraid, and this increased his shame…Beyond anything else, he was afraid of disgracing himself, and therefore his family and village.” (O’Brien, pg. 121). This means that the young man, despite having the potential courage to face his bullies, let his fear of shame for his family and home take over which caused him to not confront them at all. This demonstrates how the fear of shame could be a more powerful motivator since this shows how the fear of shame easily took over the possible courage and thought of finally confronting the ones that harm him, prompting him not to do anything at all. To conclude, this chapter demonstrates how the fear of shame is a more powerful motivator.

“The Things They Carried”/Chapter 13: In the passage of chapter thirteen, the novel demonstrates the acceptance of death. For example, the book stated “For me, it was not a matter of live or die. I was in no real peril…the young man would have passed me by…Kiowa tried to tell me that the man would’ve died anyway…that I was a soldier and this was a war, that I should shape up and stop staring and ask myself what the dead man would’ve done if things were reversed.” (O’Brien, pg. 127). This means that Kiowa and the narrator, as troops, disregarded life and death and set their mentality to how people were going to pass anyway, either before or after you while in war. This demonstrates the acceptance of death since judging by their perspectives, they treat death as an inevitable and normal thing when it comes to war and even indicated how they might face it themselves. Overall, this chapter portrays what acceptance of death is like.

“The Things They Carried”/Chapter 14: During the brief events of chapter fourteen, the story portrays the effect of war on the individual beyond physically. This is shown when the novel stated “When we dragged them out, the girl kept dancing. She put the palms of her hands against her ears,…” (O’Brien, pg. 129). This means that the girl was dancing as a way of grief, specifically in denial, of how her family was actually dead in the war. This quote is significant since it portrays how the effects of war on the individual can take on many forms such as dancing in denial due to the traumatic events that occur such as someone close being killed. To conclude, this chapter displays how the effect of war on the individual takes place.

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Summary of Book “The Things They Carried” by Tim O'Brien. (2021, Feb 08). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/summary-of-book-the-things-they-carried-by-tim-o-brien-essay

Summary of Book “The Things They Carried” by Tim O'Brien

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