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Reality Of War Essay Samples

The Things They Carried Essay: The Objectifying of Intangibles

Tim O’Brien’s 1990, The Things They Carried, is a collection of interconnected short stories that retell the adventures of the men of the Vietnam War’s Alpha Company. O’Brien’s experience as a foot soldier from 1968 to 1970 has given him an insiders perspective to the war and it is this perspective that the author shares through the characters he creates.

The author uses the objects the soldiers of the book carry to share this experience. “By telling stories, you objectify your own experience. You separate it from yourself” (1990, p. 158) writes O’Brian. Through the various objects the soldiers keep the author manifests the feelings of that make up the realities of war. “They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing — these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight” (O’Brien, 1990, pp. 21–22).

Each of the men had his own emotions to bare. The First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, the caring leader of the platoon carries photographs and letters written by the girl he had left back home. The heroic medic, Bob “Rat” Kiley has his comic books, candy, and bottle of brandy. Norman Bowker the quiet Iowa boy brings along his diary and a severed thumb taken from the body of a dead Viet Cong. Far from his Oklahoma home, the Native American, Kiowa holds tight to his bible and a hatchet given to him by his grandfather. And tied to his neck, the imposing machine gunner, Henry Dobbins styles a pair of pantyhose once worn by his girl.

To a man, O’Brien placed a collection of tangible items that in truth represented an emotional state, his emotional state, the emotional states of war. The author objectified these heavy emotions and distributed them to the men of Alpha Company to carry. All of this making up the “tangible weight” (O’Brien, 1990, p. 22) of war.


O’Brien, T. (1990). The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction (First Mariner books edition). Boston: Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The Things They Carried essay sample was prepared by one of EssayShark newly registered writers to show his/her writing skills and professionalism. We’ve chosen this book as it is the one that is studied in various countries in the course of literature studies. This particular paper sample was aimed to describe the importace of personal belongings in the book. You can take advantage of the presented ideas, but don’t use any of them in personal purposes to avoid plagiarism.

Here is one more essay sample dedicated to this book.

Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried Essay: The Role of Women

The Things They Carried is a collection of small autobiographical stories by American writer Tim O’Brien. Although all the stories describe the author’s memories of the Vietnam War, they include female characters that play an important part in the book. Martha expresses love and danger; Mary Anne Bell loss of innocence, and Linda memory and death. Despite the fact that the leitmotif of the stories is war and death, female characters represent significant human values and emotions.

One of the most meaningful female characters is Martha, who appears in the first story The Things They Carried and symbolizes love and danger. A novel describes the story of Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, who keeps memories of his friend Martha, whom he met in a college. He keeps all her letters and photographs and often thinks whether she dates with other guys. In fact, Jimmy understands that Martha does not love him and gives him false hope. One day the Alpha Company leaves for an operation, but even there the lieutenant cannot concentrate and thinks about his distant love. At this time, his friend Lavender gets injured, and after a while, he dies. This event makes Jimmy Cross to reflect on the unrequited love for Martha and to analyze the consequences of his obsessive thoughts about her. In this story, Martha symbolizes love, as the most valuable human feeling, and danger, since this attitude leads to tragic consequences. She expresses a magic love that resists the brutal reality of war. Ultimately, this unfulfilling dream of Martha, the hopes for a future life with her lead to the fact that the lieutenant is constantly distracted by thoughts about the object of his desire, even at the most critical moment. With this story, the author makes a statement that in the war the soldiers should focus on their actions, on what is happening at the current moment and not be distracted by the ghostly memories of the past, as this can cost a human life. Therefore, the character of Martha symbolizes a confrontation between love and danger, fantasy and the cruel reality of life.

Another major female character is Mary Anne Bell, who appears in the novel “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong” and symbolizes the loss of innocence. This story describes the decision of soldier Mark Fossie to bring his girl to the Vietnam War. The author describes Mary Anne as a beautiful, curious girl in nice clothes. But with a stay in Vietnam, she transforms into a real warrior: she studies the local language, communicates with other soldiers and learns how to handle weapons. This story is a symbol of the transformation of all soldiers in the war, as they come there innocent and inexperienced guys and become entirely different, strong and tempered men. The author draws a parallel between how Mary Anne loses her femininity on her arrival in Vietnam, and soldiers lose their innocence in the war. It is also worth noting that Mary Anne is the only female character who directly participates in the novel’s events. Thus, Mary Anne Bell symbolizes the loss of innocence of all soldiers who go through the horrors of war.

The character of Linda appears in the last story “The Lives of the Dead” and signifies the death and human memory. The last story of the book depicts the writer’s memories of his first love. Being at war, he thinks of his classmate Linda, with whom he once went to the cinema. He was in love with her but later discovered that she had a severe, incurable illness. After a while, Linda died, and O’Brien remembers how he went to the funeral and saw her corpse. The author thinks of this event as the first experience of death in his life and analyzes it in the context that memory is capable of giving eternal life to people who once were dear to the heart. Dead people can revive in literature and Linda’s death gives a push to O’Brien to write stories about the experience of war. The author asserts the idea that memory makes a person immortal since it allows to perpetuate his traits into various types of art. In the last novel, O’Brien summarizes that all the stories presented in the book are not about the war, but about the comprehension of life through the death of other people. Therefore, Linda symbolizes death, eternal life and the function of memory in art.

In conclusion, The Things They Carried is an autobiographical collection of novels written by Tim O’Brien about the Vietnam War. Although the main characters of the stories are soldiers of the war, female characters also play a significant role in this book. Martha symbolizes the opposition of love and danger, fantasy and reality, Mary Anne Bell-loss of the innocence of soldiers after the war, and Linda-death and eternal life. Female characters express important life values and fill the book with different emotions.

Works Cited

Gratch, Ariel. “Teaching Identity Performance Through Tim O’Brien’s Things They Carried.” Communication Teacher, vol 29, no. 2, 2015, pp. 71-75. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.1080/17404622.2014.1001418.
Milbrodt, Teresa. “War and Routine Violence in “The Things They Carried”.” Pleiades: Literature In Context, vol 36, no. 1, 2016, pp. 168-169. Johns Hopkins University Press, doi:10.1353/plc.2016.0068.
O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.

Wilfred Owen was born in 1893 and he joined the army in 1915. He was invalided because of shell shock and was sent to a hospital in Edinburgh. It was in this hospital that Owen met Siegfried Sassoon. Sassoon helped Owen with his poems. Although Owen only published five poems in his lifetime he is very much remembered for his bleak sense of realism, his anger and his realistic portrayal of the war. For my essay I have chosen to write about three of Wilfred Owen’s poems.

They are ‘Dulce et Decorum est’, ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ and ‘Exposure’. Dulce et Decorum est’ is about some young soldiers who are at war. They are marching but are so tired it is difficult for them to carry on. But they must as their lives depend on it. Suddenly there is a gas attack and through their tiredness a soldier shouts in panic because he cannot get his gas mask on and dies before their eyes. They place the dead body onto their wagon. Still the soldiers carry on. In the first line of the poem: ‘Bent double, like old beggars under sacks’, the soldiers are compared to beggars. This is to create the image of the soldiers gaunt and starving and in need of help.

The pace of the first stanza is slow and Wilfred Owen uses a caesura, which is a pause to reflect the slowness of the soldiers walking. The words ‘sludge’, ‘trudge’ and ‘fatigue’ also simulate a very slow pace. ‘Bent double, like old beggars’ and ‘limped on’ all translate as a slow weary pace. When a soldier shouts ‘gas’ adrenaline takes over and the soldiers hurry for their gas masks to save themselves from the attack. The pace of the poem quickens as the panic sets in. The word ‘fumbling’ implies the helmets are heavy and clumsy to put on.

One man’s death is described with very powerful, desperate words: He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. ‘ Wilred Owen also uses the metaphor: ‘As under green sea, I saw him drowning’. This helps create an image of what the soldiers saw and therefore make the experience more real to the reader. In this poem Owen writes of how the war effected soldiers after it had ended through flashbacks and dreams.

To convey this horror Owen uses the sentence: ‘In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. ‘ In the final stanza Wilfred Owen addresses Jessie Pope, a wartime propaganda author: ‘My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori. ‘ With this Wilfred Owen expresses his resentment towards Jessie Pope and shows that the war is not as it is portrayed in newspapers, an exciting and honourable adventure. ‘Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori’ means: it is sweet and proper to die for one’s country.

Wilfed Owen describes this as a ‘Lie’ that Jessie Pope told all young men to persuade them to become soldiers in the war. Wilfred Owen describes this as a ‘Lie’ with a capital ‘L’ to emphasise the maliciousness of the word. Anthem for Doomed Youth’ doesn’t only describe the hatred of the war but also the sadness surrounding it at the front and at home. The poem compares the deaths and burials of soldiers at the front with the church rituals at home. The poem is a sonnet, which are usually used for love poems, and has a regular rhyming rhythm. The title of this poem shows that most soldiers were young and that even if they don’t die in the war they will still have to live the rest of their lives with the memories and flashbacks. Some soldiers will also have to live with a disability.

In the first line of this poem: ‘What passing bells for these who die as cattle? ‘ Owen compares the soldiers to cattle to show how the men died in large groups and because the battle continued their comrades had no time to mourn their death or even think about the dead. There are many comparisons made in this poem: ‘The monstrous anger of the guns’ on the front line is compared with bells at a church funeral. The lack of prayers are replaced with: ‘The stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle’. Onomatopoeia is used here to enhance the image created.

The choirs that would usually be heard in a church are, on the battleground only: ‘the shrill, demented chiors of wailing shells’. ‘What candles shall be held to speed them all? Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes’ this is comparing candles to the reflection of explosions in the soldiers’ eyes. The word ‘boys’ suggests the fact that the soldiers are very young and should not have to fight in a war. The last line of the poem: ‘And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds’ is a comparison between the drawing of blinds at home and deaths of soldiers at the front line.

Exposure’ again conveys the sadness that the war creates, this time after a soldier has returned home. The poem is about a war veteran who has lost his arms and legs. The poem describes his sad and bitter thinking towards his past experiences in the war. The first stanza has a very bleak opening: ‘He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark, And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey’ this shows helplessness. In this stanza the disabled man shows sadness at hearing voices of children playing in a park this saddens and darkens his mood even more.

In the second stanza the man remembers how he lost his limbs and how things used to be before the war: ‘In the old times, before he threw away his knees. ‘ He is scornful of his youthful ignorance and now feels incongruent in the world around him: ‘All of them touch him like some queer disease. ‘ The third stanza describes how the disabled man has changed since before the war and before the loss of his limbs. A metaphor is used to convey the loss of a decent lifestyle, what the man feels is the only life: ‘He’s lost his colour very far from here,

Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry’. In the fourth stanza the man looks back ironically on how he used to like having cuts after a football match to show that he can handle injuries and now that he has the worst injuries that he can imagine he realises it is not so good. Also in this stanza it describes that the now disabled man signed up for the war when he was too young and after drinking. Now wonders why he joined and can’t believe his own stupidity at having wanted to join without being made to: ‘He asked to join. He didn’t have to beg’.

Before arriving at war he did not think of the enemies or fear only of hoe good he would look in an army uniform. The fifth and shortest stanza show the man’s disappointment of his homecoming. It was nothing like the cheering crowds from which he was sent to war but: ‘Only a solemn man who brought him fruits Thanked him and then inquired about his soul’. The sixth and final stanza shows the disabled man’s return to self-pity. He realises his loneliness and is upset that no one comes to put him to bed as it is so late.

Wilfred Owen uses repetition to emphasise the fact that no one comes: How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come And put him into bed? Why don’t they come? ‘ I think that Wilfred Owen’s poetry conveys the realities of war to such a degree that I now understand not just the politics or ethics but the feelings of soldiers and their families. Owen uses very strong adjectives and extremely powerful metaphors to recreate the images that he has seen in the war. People can try to see the horror that soldiers saw and maybe the generations to come will think twice and be careful to prevent another war.

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