Summary: Symbolism Throughout The Tim O’Brien’s Book

Categories: Novel

Through an analysis of The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, the author scrutinizes the soldiers who participated in the Vietnamese war and what happened to them after the war. Throughout the book, O’Brien incorporates himself in unique ways throughout the novel which caused readers to doubt the truth within some of his war stories in these stories the soldiers carried tangible weight but also intangible weight. Some of the intangible weight was Guilt. In the book, O’Brien initiates that guilt is an inescapable emotion that causes one to act in peculiar manners.

Tim O’Brien Implies that Guilt is an inescapable feeling through his use of figurative language, repetition, and literary features such as Symbolism, Imagery, and similes. O’Brien uses similes to help convey a message that guilt is an inescapable emotion that causes people to act and think in unforeseeable ways. As lieutenant Jimmy cross feels that he is responsible for his platoon of soldiers, however over time more and more of his men die until Ted lavender died.

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Lieutenant jimmy cross then feels the guilt as he notices that instead of focusing on winning the war he is blurred by his love and affection for Martha his girlfriend . after ted lavender dies Jimmy cross “Hates himself” and cries as he felt ashamed. O’Brien conveys lieutenant jimmy cross’s guilt by including the simile “And this he would have to carry like a stone in his stomach for the rest of the war “. Since “stones in the stomach” are Normally depicted as harmful for the body and would be painful, this meant that Jimmy cross would have to live with the pain of guilt for the rest of his life O’Brien utilizes imagery to help convey the message that guilt is an inescapable emotion that causes people to act in unpredictable ways.

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O’Brien exemplifies this in the chapter “The man I killed “ as O’Brien kills a man by pulling the pin of his grenade and throwing it,

However, this was a war and he was a soldier so killing would have been expected of him. O’Brien felt guilty was because “he didn't see him as an enemy” but rather he felt like the man had done nothing bad to him. Later in the chapter, we learn that O'Brien cannot forgive himself and even goes on to describe what the man must have felt or why he was in the war. O'Brien emphasis this through his repetition of the scene and the man’s description.Additionally, He demonstrates this through imagery by illustrating the condition of the dead man, his setting, and the impact on the grenade on him as well as giving background information about the man’s life. This was a memory that O'Brien would never forgive himself for the rest of his life. O’Brien utilizes symbolism to convey a message that guilt is an inescapable feeling that causes one to never stop thinking about it. O’Brien demonstrates this by taking his daughter Kathleen on a “field trip” to Vietnam specifically to the field where Kiowa dies. when he arrives, he sees a farmer. O’Brien conveys his guilt by symbolizing the farmer face as “ dark and solemn” meaning that O’Brien was symbolizing the farmer as Kiowa soul and when O'Brien saw him he started to remind himself of Kiowa as he said “ I wondered if the old man might walk over and exchange a few war stories” therefore symbolizing O’Brien’s close relationship with Kiowa . Additionally, O’Brien includes “ I felt something go shut in my heart while something else swung open” .further symbolizing that O’Brien felt trapped with all the memories and emotions he felt towards Kiowa’s death. O’Brien Places Kiowa’s pair of moccasins where he thinks Kiowa dies symbolizing him paying tributes to Kiowa and a sign of him apologizing to Kiowa and looking for forgiveness and also a way for O’Brien to relieve his guilt.

Through an analysis of The Things,They Carried O’Brien implies to the reader that guilt is a treacherous feeling that makes one feel trapped because of all the memories and makes them act in peculiar ways. This is demonstrated throughout the book through the use of repetition and literary features such as imagery, symbolism, and similes.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Summary: Symbolism Throughout The Tim O’Brien’s Book. (2024, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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