The Things They Carried is told in a series of vignettes, or short stories, that provide a picture of a particular moment, story, emotion, or impression. Students will actually be quite familiar with vignettes if they watch TV. Many TV series have been making use of the vignette storytelling format throughout their seasons, including a very popular show about zombies. Have students collaborate together and come up with some examples of vignettes in TV series or movies to get them thinking about the format of vignettes and how it might be used in literature. Some common characteristics of a vignette include:
Wikihow.com has some great tools for having students practice writing their own vignettes.
Until recent years, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in soldiers returning from the battlefield was not something that was publicized or even widely-acknowledged by the military. According to an extensive study done by the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research, 22 veterans commit suicide per day. Of the veterans who suffer from PTSD, only 50% seek treatment. Estimates show that between 10% and 31% of returning soldiers suffer from PTSD. It’s important for students to understand that PTSD is playing a crucial role in the novel, from O’Brien’s own experiences and strategies for dealing with his guilt, to Norman Bowker’s suicide. Students should know the common causes of PTSD, and the symptoms. Perhaps they also know a veteran who suffers from PTSD and can discuss what they know, or interview the veteran if he or she is willing. Have students do some research on PTSD first. Some great websites for information include: