February 11, 2015
The Things They Carried: A literary analysis
People carry things with them all the time. Of these things, some of them are light and others are heavy; some of them are tangible, others are not. Take a moment to look around, what do you see? Perhaps you see a woman with a look of despair on her face, caused by a life filled with trauma, or perhaps you see a child carrying a bag of groceries. The things that we carry on a daily basis define us as a human being and shines light on our strengths as well as our weaknesses. Some of these people might think of these things as burdens that weigh them down, whereas others see them as a symbol of hope and something to believe in. Through its symbolic images of the lake, sewage field, and the vietnamese soldier, tied together with themes of redemption and hope, O’Brien’s The Things They Carried establishes what each character carried in various forms so we can understand what each of them was made of and the qualities they possessed. By doing so, O’Brien creates a world where the line between reality and fiction is blurred, leaving it up to us to determine the meaning behind the message.
The dictionary defines redemption as “the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil”. We see redemption in various forms throughout O’Briens novel. We see the yearning for redemption inside O’Brien, as he never truly forgives himself for failing to take an ethical stand, a moral stand against the war, instead of enlisting. In “The Man I Killed”, redemption assumes the form of a human being, more specifically, a young, deceased Vietnamese soldier. O’Briens character, who is ironically named Tim O’Brien, fixates and becomes preoccupied with the images and visions of this Vietnamese soldier, whom he killed with a grenade. O’Brien sees the soldier as an extension of himself, as if they were the same person. Redemption assumes the form of a specific location in...