The Things They Carried Essay

Tim O'Brien
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Elisabeth Piedmont-Marton has a Ph.D. in American literature. In this essay she discusses the blending of the real and unreal, the tangible and the imaginative, in "The Things They Carried."

The title story of The Things They Carried, which O'Brien himself describes as "sort of a half novel, half group of stories," dramatizes the lives of foot soldiers in Vietnam during the later years of the war. O'Brien characterizes them as "legs," or "grunts," as those who carry burdens both literal and figurative: from photographs and tranquilizers to shame and responsibility. The story, like the lives of the men in Lt. Cross's platoon, depends on a delicate balance, upon "poise," to use O'Brien's term. Walking a blurred line between fact and fiction, the story requires readers to balance the physical and the metaphysical worlds as well and challenges their definitions of reality.

The narrator guides readers throughout...

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This section contains 1,555 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy The Things They Carried Study Guide
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Short Stories for Students
The Things They Carried from Short Stories for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.