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Major themes in Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried”

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Excessive amounts of stress hormones in brain tissue.
  3. Summerfield's study on the veterans of Vietnam.
  4. The use of trust in others as a main theme for O'Brien.
  5. Effects on the men of war in O'Brien's novel.
  6. The memories of the dead portrayed by O'Brien's post war thoughts.
  7. Conclusion.

The effects of the Vietnam War left men with terrible everlasting images and countless troubles, according to Tim O'Brien's novel that portrays a war that was meaningless and strung out. O'Brien's book, ?The Things They Carried? describes the everyday issues that war soldiers experienced and also explains the underlying problems they were facing during the time. The narrator, also named Tim, talks about the meaningless activities and games that the men played to keep structure to their lives, and to keep their minds off of the existing conflict. The characters also use pungent images of the ways in which a war like this can leave a person post-conflict, and at the same time the book gives examples of the effects that the war actually left on men. In the given situation, depression was inevitable, especially during the struggles and tribulations that men were opposed to performing. Soldiers struggled to keep their lives as ?normal? as they possibly could during the war that most weren't sure they believed in. One thing that O'Brien elaborates on throughout the book is the trust that is gained in not only your fellow soldiers and comrades, but also with the people that you were fighting the war against.

[...] Acts that place people in situations where they are forced to do something that will hurt not only themselves, but also another person, most definitely leave an everlasting impression on the individual's life. Rat Kiley continually uses not only himself as a character that is corrupted by war, but a character that eventually shoots himself in the foot due to the stress of the war and the insanity that it has placed him in. O'Brien's use of complex and interesting characters, along with their actions, lead the reader to feel a sense that the person is crazier and more uneasy as each day passes. [...]

[...] What follows, however, is a series of vignettes that are anything but "sweet." When a Vietnamese boy with a plastic leg approaches an American soldier with a chocolate bar, the soldier reflects, "One leg, for Chrissake. Some poor fucker ran out of amino" (Blyn 31). While on the other hand, however, the trust from man to man varied in the insecurities that they developed from the war. A child with chocolate would not and should not spook a man who has been killing grown men for months on end but historically the Vietnam War was filled with surprises and ?spooks?. [...]

[...] Throughout Tim O'Brien's novel, The Things They Carried, images of love, hate, trust, and depression simultaneously occur and are each examined through the eyes of a society experiencing a time of war that O'Brien states is unjust and overwhelmingly long. Each emotion is also studied in respect to how the war will affect the life of the soldier in the long term, and not just immediately. A sluggish, drawn out, Vietnam War left soldiers with a handful of time to pursue deep thoughts about the things that they had done while at the same time effecting there inner thought and damaging their brains. [...]

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