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Literary Techniques in “The Things They Carried” Essay


A literary technique is a device used in literature to include depth to a writer’s work. These techniques can be obvious, such as the technique of rhyme in a poem, or subtle, such as juxtaposition, which can go undetected by the reader. In The Things They Brought, Tim O’Brien utilizes lots of such techniques to offer more depth to his book. Four literary methods utilized by Tim O’Brien are importance, worthless misconception, irony, and juxtaposition. One literary method popular in The Things They Carried, especially in the story by the same name, is symbolism.

Throughout this story, O’Brien points out all the things that the soldiers carry with them, both physical and psychological. However, the physical products that the males carried is more than just equipment- they are signs that represent various aspects of each soldier’s character. For example, “Rat Kiley brought … morphine and plasma and malaria tablets and surgical tape … and all the things a medic need to carry, consisting of M&M’s for specifically bad wounds” (O’Brien 5).

The truth that Kiley brought medical necessities reveals that he is an excellent paramedic dedicated to doing his job well, however the M&M’s represent something various- Kiley’s optimistic and kind outlook on the war and life in general. Conversely, the tranquilizers brought by Ted Lavender represent his terror of the combating in the war and his failure to deal with reality, rather choosing to escape from it by taking drugs. This is an efficient technique since, by using these symbols, O’Brien can let the reader determine for him/herself deeper elements of specific characters’ characters without really stating them outright.

Another literary device Tim O’Brien utilizes is pathetic fallacy, or nature mirroring humans’ emotions. In the story Speaking of Courage, Norman Bowker attempts to save Kiowa’s life but fails. He ends up being depressed and sorry about what he must have had the ability to achieve. For a very long time afterward, Bowker has problem with the reality that he was “braver than he ever believed possible, but … not so brave as he wished to be” (153 ); he is conquered with unhappiness and regret. This is shown in the weather condition at the time of Kiowa’s death.

The soldiers were in a field along the Tune Tra Bong, and “the rain kept worsening. And by midnight the field turned into soup” (145 ). The rain imitates the emotions of the tired and despondent soldiers. Pitiful misconception is a really beneficial strategy since it helps to provide the tone for the story. If the story was a sad one but the weather condition was brilliant and warm, the tone of the story would be wrong, and vice versa. In Speaking of Nerve, the truth that it was raining during the centerpiece of the story assists the reader gain and understanding of simply how bleak and dismal the occasions that took place were.

Paradox, or a disparity between expectation and reality, is another literary strategy utilized by Tim O’Brien in The Things They Brought. Much of the titles of the stories contain paradox themselves. For instance, Mentioning Guts is more centred on the themes of failure and the failure to be courageous than it has to do with courage. The story Love is not, as it would seem, about shared love, but rather unrequited love. Sightseeing tour, an expression with a normally really positive undertone, is a story about a see to a battlefield where numerous lives had actually been lost.

The Story How to Tell a True War Story also contains much paradox within it. The bottom line of this story is that a real war story can not be informed due to the fact that the easy act of telling it makes it untrue. The title of this story is paradoxical- O’Brien makes the reader think that he wants to instruct them how to tell a real war story, but the reader soon discovers O’Brien’s real intent- that telling a real war story is impossible. Another paradoxical concept within this story is the concept that war can be lovely.

“You hate it, yes, but your eyes do not. Like a forest fire, like cancer under a microscopic lense, any battle … has … an effective, implacable charm” (81 ). This captures the reader off-guard because of how considerably it contrasts with the view of war we have actually been formerly provided. He continues to state that, “a true war story will tell the reality about this, though the truth is unsightly” (81 ). This is very paradoxical since although the actual event may be stunning, if a true story is told about it, the story is ugly.

This contributes to O’Brien’s point that narrating, even a real one, can just remove from the reality of the occasion. Using paradox, O’Brien can provide his message in an imaginative a fascinating method, and this assists the readers comprehend his point better. Another strategy utilized by Tim O’Brien is juxtaposition. The story The Lives of the Dead appears to be a little a non-sequitur to the remainder of the book, however, O’Brien has put it where it is for a factor. The point of The important things They Brought is not just to tell stories about the Vietnam War- the lesson goes deeper than that.

It comes to teach that war has to do with more than just battling- it is about the connection in between life and death. It has to do with learning to remove oneself from death. It has to do with the sacredness and fragility of life. It is about a lot of things that many individuals never ever have to experience. However the Vietnam War is not O’Brien’s first time entering contact with these sort of concerns. As a kid, he had a beloved pal called Linda who died of cancer. Linda’s death was a huge part of his growing up process.

As a child, he currently had to discover to distance himself from her death, stating, “It didn’t appear real … the girl lying in the white casket wasn’t Linda” (241 ). And although he did not understand it at the time, her death helped him to deal with all the deaths he experienced in the war. For example, when Curt Lemon passes away, O’Brien refuses to see his body as a pal who died. Instead he says, “his body was not actually a body, but rather one smidgen of waste in the middle of a much broader wastage” (238 ).

The lessons that O’Brien found out as a kid are extremely relevant and connected to his experiences in the Vietnam War, which is why he selects to consist of The Lives of the Dead. But this is not the only message that O’Brien desires us to take out of the addition The Lives of the Dead in The Important Things They Carried- he wishes to convey that although something that occurs in one’s life may appear dreadful and meaningless, it may end up being of use to him or her later in life, and it may help him or her to make it through an otherwise unmanageable time.

O’Brien wants his reader to understand that everything in life comes for a purpose. Throughout The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien makes use of many different literary strategies. In the story The Things They Carried, O’Brien uses symbolism. In Speaking of Courage, the literary method is worthless fallacy. Paradox is used in How to Tell a True War Story, to name a few, and juxtaposition is used in the story The Lives of the Dead. It can be seen that literary methods have a basic but powerful result in The important things They Carried.

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