Self And Language In Tim O Brien's The Things They Carried

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Words express self. Words, like humans, are maintained by the identity behind them. Similarly to humans, when words confront obstacles, they weaken. Nevertheless, obstacles are a crucial portion of fate, as seen in Tim O’Brien’s novel, The Things They Carried. This 1990 war novel describes the supposed experiences of Timmy O’Brien and his platoon amidst the chaos of war-torn Viet Nam, the events preceding and following it. The reader is exposed to O’Brien’s thorough style of writing, as opposed to the dreadful memories from the war, and – consequentially – the influence of those recollections on the ability of the platoon soldiers to express themselves. O’Brien established contrast between his thorough, descriptive narrative style and the…show more content…
Throughout “[T]he Man I Killed”, the narrator describes his account of a body, which he claims to have shot under the pressure of the battlefield. He constructs a biography for the Vietnamese soldier; “[I]n 1964 the young man began attending classes at the university in Saigon, where he avoided politics and paid attention to the problems of calculus” (O’Brien 122). O’Brien chooses to concentrate the life-story to the soldier’s studies, a supposed symbol of enlightenment, contradicting the violent nature of war. The paradoxical areas of life in this thorough description conveys to the reader that these reflections are incorrect, a tone of romanticism is established as to persuading the reader the story is credible, as enhanced by physical descriptions, such as “the one eye did a funny twinkling trick” (123). The usage of “eyes” humanizes the body whose soul had left. Nevertheless, the protagonist is utterly speechless, despite Kiowa’s desperate attempts to initiate communication, as indicated by “then he [Kiowa] said, ‘Man, I’m sorry’. Then later he said, ‘Why not talk about it?’. Then he said, ‘Come on, man, talk’” (124). The repetition of “then” adheres to the thoroughness of O’Brien’s narrative, which, in reality, is shattered by Tim’s silence. This portrays that while in retrospection O’Brien is able to reflect on…show more content…
O’Brien describes the system in the first chapter; “They used a hard vocabulary to contain the terrible softness. Greased they’d say. Offed, lit up, zapped while zipping. It wasn’t cruelty, just stage presence” (19). The juxtaposition of the word “softness” and the brutality, diminishing diction of “offed” or “zapped”, that are metaphors from areas ironically innocent, enhances the powerful contrast between the emotional importance of human death as inferred by Ted Lavender’s story, and the simplicity in which they refer to the valuable concept of mortality. Likewise, in the beginning of “How to Tell a True War Story”, Curt Lemon is said to have been killed by an explosion. His strongest companion, Rat Kiley, writes a letter to Lemon’s sister – which, by logic, and due to his following reclusiveness, wouldn’t have been known to O’Brien had it been real. Therefore, the reader can attribute the letter to O’Brien’s narrative, rather than Rat Kiley who is later exposed to be fictional. The message to the deceased’s sister, despite the sorrow it expresses, is romantic, as indicated by his account of “her brother, [who] he had the right attitude” (65). Attitude is considered a symbol of one’s mentality, who Rat ironically describes thoroughly to Kiley’s sister, a figure who would already know him as a human. Albeit when she does not respond to his

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