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The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

"The Things They Carried" follows protagonist Tim O’Brien (which is the same name as the author); however, Tim O’Brien admittedly invented the fictional character. The story beings in the summer of 1968 when O’Brien must decide whether to report for the war or whether he should go AWOL like so many others. O’Brien inevitably goes to war unable to deny the pressures of God and Country; however his cowardice stays with him and makes him feel a sense of shame. This process teaches him a great deal about the nature of courage, he learns that people are often motivated by embarrassment and shame into doing brave things.

Once in Vietnam he finds a war to take a heavy emotional toll on the soldiers. Besides the physical items they all carry with them as reminders of their friends, family, and loved ones, they carry fear, hate, guilt, love, dreams, and blame. Most importantly they struggled with the knowledge that are alive while their comrades and dead, all the while marching from village to village, asking ‘what’s it all for?’

The novel is broken up into stories or chapters that deal with specific events that occurred in Alpha unit’s brigade. Although each chapter is told during a different time (20 years later or while in Vietnam) each chapter named after an item the men carried, dealt with the realities of war, and how the men coped or tried to escape them.

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