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Free Study Guide-The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien-Free Book Notes
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THEMES

Isolation

The soldiers constantly remark on their inability to communicate their experiences in a way that their family or peers will understand. Because of this, they feel a sense of isolation once they return home.

Language

O’Brien constantly remarks on how the language of war is purposely constructed to make pain and death seem less real. It is merely the dialogue of an elaborate play, in which they all act their part.


Truth

Stories that never happened may contain more truth than actual events. Stories can reveal truth in a way that makes the stomach believe.

Courage

Many heroic feats are done not because of an abundance of courage, but because men will do anything to avoid shame. Men kill and die because they are scared not to. Following one’s conscious often requires the greatest courage.

Redemption

The hero (O’Brien) struggles to understand his past and his involvement in the Vietnam War. When he returns to Vietnam and sees the country has moved beyond the war, he realizes he can do the same.

MOOD

The book’s mood is one of reflection and sadness. This is largely due to the tragic nature of many of the stories. Although the author has fond memories of his companions during the war, he does not take pride in his actions - including actions others consider to be courageous. The path of experience and wisdom eventually leads to a form of redemption for the Tim O’Brien character, but the journey itself is not a happy one.

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