The Things They Carried Essay

Tim O'Brien
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In the following excerpt, Smith contends that the dramatic resolution of "The Things They Carried" "turns on recovering masculine power by suppressing femininity in both male and female characters," and that female characters in O'Brien's work are often only plot devices.

In both the opening and closing stories of [The Things They Carried], imagination is linked to an idealized, unattainable woman—Martha, a girlfriend at home, and Linda, a childhood sweetheart who died at nine. The first story plays one of the many variations on the imagination-reality motif and picks up where O'Brien's earlier novel, Going after Cacciato, left off, with Paul Berlin imagining himself pleading for peace at the Paris Peace Talks but admitting: "Even in imagination we must be true to our obligations, for, even in imagination, obligation cannot be outrun. Imagination, like reality, has its limits." "The Things They Carried" goes further to limit...

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This section contains 2,664 words
(approx. 7 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.