The Things They Carried

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate April 2001

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The Things They Carried The difference between reality and fiction is often one of axiomatic perception rather than fact. There are no formal standards by which we decide when a written work has left the borders of sanity and ventured into the realm of the inconceivable? " The things they carried" is an interesting case study in a preponderance of this nature. The novel is officially designated a work of fiction, but I think that making any categorical classification of a book such as this is would be inaccurately conveying the raison detre of its author, Tim O'Brien. To me, there is a clear distinction between a fictional work that seeks to efficaciously describe a real situation by making it seem more appealing to the common reader and your run-of-the-mill fabrication. It is all too possible that the rigors of daily existence at the front lines of the Vietnam war are too trite and tedious to be recounted in pure factual detail.

"The Things They Carried" tries to minimize the disinterest such reality might present by embellishing facts. As such, I would say that it is both an indulgence in fictional hyperbole and an effort to narrate reality.

This intertwining of fictional dramatization and non-fictional narrative is seen on two occasions in particular. The first of these is when O'Brien describes the thoughts and apprehensions that plagued his mind when he received his draft notice in the summer of nineteen-sixty eight.

It is perhaps common for men to believe that come wartime, courage and gallantry are two virtues that spontaneously burgeon out from their beings, like a kingfisher that springs forth from its idyllic perch upon sighting its exposed prey under that crystalline nothingness of a lake's surface. O'Brien says " All of us, I suppose like to believe...